Scientists use cannabidiol (CBD) as a Trojan horse to deliver medications to the brain
09/17/2019 // Tracey Watson // Views

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound in marijuana that offers a wealth of health benefits without causing the “high” traditionally associated with cannabis. CBD oil is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand natural supplements on the market, and with good reason: Scientific studies have confirmed that it provides pain relief, reduces inflammation, improves the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and reduces the number of seizures associated with childhood disorders like Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.

In addition, ongoing studies are investigating the link between CBD and a reduction in heart disease risk, as well as the possibility that it could prevent diabetes and even cure certain types of cancer.

Now, as reported by Science Daily, animal trials have confirmed that CBD can be used as a medical “Trojan horse” to slip medications across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) into the brains of mice.

The BBB is a tightly woven layer of cells that prevents harmful substances from crossing over from the bloodstream into the brain, while allowing useful molecules like glucose, neurotransmitters and amino acids to pass through. Scientists hope to use CBD to “sneak” medications across the BBB.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Molecular Pharmaceutics earlier this year.

Diseases of the central nervous system especially hard to treat

As explained by Medical News Today, the central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is referred to as the “central” nervous system because it collects information from multiple systems, coordinating activities across the body.


Medical News Today explains:

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body; the cerebral cortex (the outermost part of the brain and the largest part by volume) contains an estimated 15–33 billion neurons, each of which is connected to thousands of other neurons.

In total, around 100 billion neurons and 1,000 billion glial (support) cells make up the human brain. Our brain uses around 20 percent of our body's total energy. ...

The spinal cord, running almost the full length of the back, carries information between the brain and body, but also carries out other tasks.

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 hard to treat because the BBB prevents medications from crossing from the bloodstream through into the brain to reach the affected areas.

A medical sneak attack

As explained by Science Daily, neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids have the ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors within the BBB. These receptors, in turn, help to transport useful molecules through the BBB and into the brain.

The research team set out to prove that they could use this system as a way to sneak medications that the BBB would ordinarily block through to the brain. This would allow for more effective treatment of diseases that affect the central nervous system.

Science Daily explained the methodology used to conduct the research:

[T]he researchers attached CBD, which resembles endocannabinoids made by both mice and humans, to the outside surfaces of lipid nanocapsules. Instead of loading the nanocapsules with a medication, the researchers packaged them with a fluorescent molecule so they could track the particles. In experiments with human brain cells that mimic the BBB, the researchers showed that the CBD-displaying nanocarriers caused more of the fluorescent molecule to pass through the cells than nanocarriers of equal size that lacked CBD. Similarly, when injected into healthy mice, the CBD-nanocapsules targeted about 2.5 times more of the fluorescent molecule to the animals' brains.

If scientists are able to replicate these results in human trials, CBD could offer patients with CNS disorders real hope. Discover more of the benefits of CBD at

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