An article on the Hebrew University research appeared this week in the prestigious American PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.) journal. The research team, headed by Prof. Itai Bab, worked in Hebrew University's bone laboratory.
Substances produced mainly in the brain, called endocannabinoids, are made of fatty acids and exist in the bone and elsewhere. The substances bind to and activate two receptors - CB1 in the nervous system and CB2 in the immune system.
A high number of CB2-receptors were found in the bones of the mice and shown to be essential in preserving normal bone density. Mice lacking those receptors were shown to develop osteoporosis as they age.
Osteoporosis, a common ailment in the Western world, can lead to easily broken bones and disabilities.
The study shows that plants such as cannabis, which contain substances that activate CB2 receptors, can be used as a basis of drugs to help those suffering from osteoporosis. The researchers have developed a synthetic compound called HU-308 which succeeds in combatting osteoporosis in mice.
Though the cannabis plant is known mostly for marijuana, which comes from the flowers of the female plants, the extracts have no psychoactive side effects.