Some preclinical evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system may play a critical role in the development of ALS. In 2006, for example, one study found that compounds that connected with a specific cannabinoid receptor (CB2) delayed ALS symptoms in mouse models. In a review published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, authors cited preclinical data suggesting that cannabis has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects. They also suggest that it may have beneficial effects in key pharmaceutical targets in ALS, including:
- Glutamate uptake, which controls the excitability of brain cells.
- Enhanced mitochondrial function, the organelle which produces energy for cells to use.
- Increased neurotrophic growth factor(s), a neurotransmitter that controls nerve growth and development.
- Engagement of microglial cells, the immune system in the brain.
- Anti-apoptotic agents, compounds which prevent cells from self-destructing.
- The same paper proposed further that cannabis may be useful in symptom management in ALS patients. These include symptoms of analgesia, muscle relaxation, bronchodilation, and appetite, sleep, and saliva reduction.
(Source: Carter GT, Abood ME, Aggarwal SK, Weiss MD., “Cannabis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: hypothetical and practical applications, and a call for clinical trials.” Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2010 Aug;27(5):347-56. doi: 10.1177/1049909110369531. Epub 2010 May 3)