Scientists at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky have identified a previously unknown molecular target of cannabidiol (CBD), which may have significant therapeutic implications for Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
A poster by Zhao-Hui Song and Alyssa S. Laun at the 2017 meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society in Montreal disclosed that CBD activates a G-coupled protein receptor called “GPR6” that is highly expressed in the basal ganglia region of the brain. GPR6 is considered an “orphan receptor” because researchers have yet to find the primary endogenous compound that binds to this receptor.(1)
It has been shown that a depletion of GPR6causes an increase of dopamine, a critical neurotransmitter, in the brain. This finding suggests GPR6 could have a role in the treatment of Parkinson’s, a chronic, neurodegenerative disease that entails the progressive loss of dopaminergic (dopamine-producing) neurons and consequent impairment of motor control. By acting as an “inverse agonist” at the GPR6 receptor, CBD boosts dopamine levels in preclinical studies.
Parkinson’s affects an estimated 10 million people worldwide, including one million Americans. It is the second most common neurological disorder (after Alzheimer’s Disease). Over 96 percent of those diagnosed with PD are over 50 years old with men being one-and-a-half times more likely to have PD than women. Uncontrolled PD significantly reduces the patient’s quality of life and can render a person unable to care for themselves, trapped in a body they cannot control.
Parkinson’s Disease is most associated with compromised motor function after the loss of 60-80% of dopamine-producing neurons. As dopaminergic neurons become damaged or die and the brain is less able to produce adequate amounts of dopamine, patients may experience any one or combination of these classic PD motor symptoms: tremor of the hands, arms, legs or jaw; muscle rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement (bradykinesia); and /or impaired balance and coordination (postural instability).
By acting as an inverse agonist at the GPR6receptor, CBD boosts dopamine levels in preclinical studies.
Additional symptoms include decreased facial expressions, dementia or confusion, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, constipation, cognitive changes, fear, anxiety, and urinary problems. Pesticide exposure and traumatic brain injury are linked to increased risk for PD. Paraquat, an herbicide sprayed by the DEA in anti-marijuana defoliant operations in the United States and other countries, resembles a toxicant MPTP [methyl-phenyl-tetrahydropyridien], which is used to simulate animal models of Parkinson’s for research purposes.(2)
Within the PD brain there are an inordinate number of Lewy bodies – intracellular aggregates of difficult to break down protein clusters – that cause dysfunction and demise of neurons.(3) This pathological process results in difficulties with thinking, movement, mood and behavior. The excessive presence of Lewy bodies, coupled with the deterioration of dopaminergic neurons, are considered to be hallmarks of Parkinson’s. But mounting evidence suggests that these aberrations are actually advanced-stage manifestations of a slowly evolving pathology.
It appears that non-motor symptoms occur for years before the disease progresses to the brain, and that PD is actually a multi-system disorder, not just a neurological ailment, which develops over a long period of time. According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, motor symptoms of PD only begin to manifest when most of the brain’s dopamine-producing cells are already damaged.
Patients whose PD is diagnosed at an early stage have a better chance of slowing disease progression. The most common approach to treating PD is with oral intake of L-dopa, the chemical precursor to dopamine. But in some patients, long-term use of L-dopa will exacerbate PD symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no cure – yet.
LIFESTYLE MODIFICATIONS FOR PD PATIENTS
It is important to treat the patient as a whole – mind, body and soul. The following are a few lifestyle modifications that may provide relief from PD symptoms and improve quality of life.
- Do cardio aerobic exercise: This benefits the body in so many ways, including stimulating the production of one’s endocannabinoids, increasing oxygen in the blood supply, mitigating the negative impact of oxidative stress, and boosting the production of BDNF, a brain-protecting chemical found to be low in PD patients.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables: The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is so true. The majority of PD patients suffer from chronic constipation. A high fiber diet can be helpful in improving gut motility and facilitating daily bowel movements.
- Get restful sleep: Not getting good sleep can undermine one’s immune function, cognition and quality of life. The importance of adequate restful sleep cannot be over emphasized.
- Reduce protein intake – This may help reduce the accumulation of protein bodies that result in Lewy bodies that appear in the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system and increase the uptake of L-dopa.
- Practice meditation, yoga or Tai Chi: The focus on the integration of movement and breath not only improve mobility but it also improves cognition and immunity. One study showed an increase in grey matter density in the areas of the brain associated with PD. Another showed that yoga improved balance, flexibility, posture and gait in PD patients. Research shows that tai chi can improve balance, gait, functional mobility, and overall well being.
- Consume probiotic food and supplements: Probiotic foods — raw garlic, raw onions, bananas, asparagus, yams, sauerkraut, etc.— are a great source for the good bacteria in your large intestine. Augmenting your diet with probiotic supplements, especially after taking antibiotics, can support the immune system by helping to repopulate the upper digestive tract with beneficial bacteria. Consult your doctor regarding a recommendation for a quality probiotic.
- Drink coffee: The risk of PD is considerably lower for men who consume coffee daily.
source: Project CBD