Animal testing has confirmed that CBD can be used as a medical "Trojan horse" to pass drugs across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in the brains of mice.
Scientific studies have confirmed that CBD relieves pain, reduces inflammation, improves symptoms of depression and anxiety, and reduces the number of attacks associated with childhood disorders such as the Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.
In addition, ongoing studies are studying the link between CBD and a reduction in the risk of heart disease, as well as the possibility that it can prevent diabetes and even cure certain types of cancer.
The BBB is a tightly woven layer of cells that prevents harmful substances from passing from the blood stream to the brain, while letting through useful molecules such as glucose, neurotransmitters and amino acids. Scientists hope to use CBD to "introduce" drugs through the BBB.
The study was published this year in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics from the American Chemical Society.
Central nervous system (CNS) diseases particularly difficult to treat
The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is called the "central" nervous system because it gathers information from multiple systems and coordinates activities throughout the body.
There are a number of causes of central nervous system disorders, including trauma, infections, tumors, autoimmune disorders, and stroke. These conditions include motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and many others.
CNS disorders are particularly difficult to treat because the BBB prevents drugs from passing from the bloodstream to the brain to reach the affected areas.
Stealth drug administration
Neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids have the ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors in the BBB. These receptors, in turn, help transport useful molecules across the BBB and into the brain.
The research team set out to prove that they could use this system as a way to deliver drugs that the BBB would normally block in the brain. This would more effectively treat diseases that affect the central nervous system.
Researchers attached CBD to the outer surfaces of lipid nanocapsules. Instead of loading the nanocapsules with a drug, the researchers packed them with a fluorescent molecule to follow their course. In experiments with human brain cells that mimic the BBB, researchers have shown that nanocarriers with CBD pass a larger amount of the fluorescent molecule through cells than even-sized nanoparticles that did not have CBD. Similarly, when injected into healthy mice, CBD nanocapsules administer about 2,5 times more of the fluorescent molecule into the animal brain.
If scientists are able to replicate these results in human trials, the CBD could provide real hope for patients with CNS disorders.