[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 20-Apr-2009
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Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
cmooneyhan@faseb.org
301-634-7104
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Our brains make their own marijuana: We're all pot heads deep inside

New study in the FASEB Journal shows that our brains make proteins that act directly on the marijuana receptors in our head

U.S. and Brazilian scientists have just proven that one of Bob Dylan's most famous lines—"everybody must get stoned"— is correct. That's because they've discovered that the brain manufactures proteins that act like marijuana at specific receptors in the brain itself. This discovery, published online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), may lead to new marijuana-like drugs for managing pain, stimulating appetite, and preventing marijuana abuse.

"Ideally, this development will lead to drugs that bind to and activate the THC receptor, but are devoid of the side effects that limit the usefulness of marijuana," said Lakshmi A. Devi of the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and one of the senior researchers involved in the study. "It would be helpful to have a drug that activated or blocked the THC receptor, and our findings raise the possibility that this will lead to effective drugs with fewer side effects."

Scientists made their discovery by first extracting several small proteins, called peptides, from the brains of mice and determining their amino acid sequence. The extracted proteins were then compared with another peptide previously known to bind to, but not activate, the receptor (THC) affected by marijuana. Out of the extracted proteins, several not only bound to the brain's THC receptors, but activated them as well.

"The War on Drugs has hit very close to home," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Last year, scientists found that our skin makes its own marijuana-like substance. Now, we see that our brain has been making proteins that act directly on the marijuana receptors in our head. The next step is for scientists to come up with new medicines that eliminate the nasty side of pot—a better joint, so to speak."

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Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fasebjournalreaders.htm. The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The journal has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century and is the most cited biology journal worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB comprises 22 nonprofit societies with more than 80,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB advances biological science through collaborative advocacy for research policies that promote scientific progress and education and lead to improvements in human health.

Details: Ivone Gomes, Julia S. Grushko, Urszula Golebiewska, Sascha Hoogendoorn, Achla Gupta, Andrea S. Heimann, Emer S. Ferro, Suzanne Scarlata, Lloyd D. Fricker, and Lakshmi A. Devi. Novel endogenous peptide agonists of cannabinoid receptors. FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.09-132142 http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/abstract/fj.09-132142v1



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