Cannabinoid breakthrough

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An international team led by a University of Calgary medical researcher has proven the existence of a second cannabinoid receptor in the human brain, making a new generation of drugs against diabetes, cancer and AIDS possible.

Cannabinoids are a group of chemicals, including THC found in the cannabis plant, which act as our bodies' chemical messengers. Receptors are the parts of our cells that react to these chemical messengers and initiate a response from the cell. Understanding cannabinoid receptors makes a targeted treatment of conditions in the brain possible, reducing drug side-effects and opening a new variety of treatments.

"Scientists have been looking for this receptor in the brain for several years and no one could find it," said Dr. Keith Sharkey of the U of C Faculty of Medicine. Sharkey is the principal investigator of the study. "We have discovered a way to harness the body's own cannabinoids as a potential treatment strategy that may limit the unwanted side-effects of conventional cannabinoid therapies."

The study appears in the Oct. 14 issue of the journal Science.