Could cannabis help treat diabetes? The latest addition to the scientific literature comes from the Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry in Italy. In a study published in the journal Molecules, researchers found that cannabimovone (CBM), a rare cannabinoid, can sensitize cells to insulin. CBM thus joins CBD, THC, THCV, and THCA as a potentially promising avenue of research for diabetes prevention.
Lower levels of Insulin resistance
Despite the well-known effect of the herb in stimulating hunger, surveys have shown that regular cannabis users generally have a lower BMI (body mass index) and a smaller height than non-users.
Researchers have also associated cannabis use with lower levels of insulin resistance, which is good news for cannabinophiles at risk of diabetes. Many studies have tried to determine exactly which cannabinoids have a positive impact on diabetes and how.
Many cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, may reduce specific types of inflammation associated with obesity and diabetes. Small doses of THC-V in humans have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin production.
THC-A, THC, and CBD have all shown promise for increasing insulin awareness and lowering blood sugar levels through activation of a specific receptor called PPARɣ. Cannabimovone, the subject of Italian research, maybe an even better option for the activation of PPARɣ.
PPARɣ is a receptor that plays a key role in the regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism. It is widely distributed in fat tissue and increases the insulin sensitivity of cells in several ways. This is why it has been the target of many drugs developed to treat type 2 diabetes. The most important group of these drugs, called thiazolidinediones (TZDs), works by sensitizing cells to insulin.
TZDs may be effective for long-term treatment and likely have a better treatment profile than the more popular diabetes treatments. Unfortunately, their side effects, including an increased risk of heart attack and osteoporosis, have led to a decrease in their use. Because these side effects are associated with the potency with which they bind to PPARɣ, diabetes researchers are interested in discovering or developing a compound that is a less potent activator of PPARɣ. They want to retain the positive effects of insulin sensitization while minimizing the negative effects by finding a balance in the way the receptor is activated. This is where cannabimovone could potentially come into play.
What is CANNABIMOVONE (CBM)?
Cannabimovone (CBM) is a rare cannabinoid that was first isolated in 2010 from a variety of Italian hemp. Although CBM is rare in most strains of the plant, researchers had little difficulty synthesizing the molecule in the laboratory.
The Italian researchers looked at the effects of THC and CBD on insulin sensitization and wondered if other cannabinoids could do the same thing with fewer side effects. Using computer modeling, they searched their cannabinoid database, and the result was there: CBM fit into the model.
Looking for a narrow target
Before that, the only known biological target for CRM was TRPV1, the receptor for the heat of capsaicin, the active component of hot peppers. While there may be many more biological targets for CBM, researchers are very interested in discovering compounds that have a limited number of targets in the body. Many undesirable side effects of drugs stem from interactions outside of those that are specifically targeted.
None of this matters, of course, if the MBC kills healthy cells. This would mean that the MBC is toxic, and would exclude it from further development. The Italian team evaluated the toxicity of CBM by exposing a group of kidney cells in vitro to different concentrations of the compound. The cells performed very well at each concentration level, meaning that the MBC passed its first test on its way to a potential treatment.
A long way to go
The next step was to compare CBM to a commonly used diabetes drug. So far, so good. The CBM has sensitized the cells as well as the pharmaceutical option while encouraging the expression of PPARɣ – something the pharmaceutical drug has not done.
As with any form of early research, the results of the Italian study should be seen as encouraging news, but not as definitive proof of the efficacy of CBM for patients with diabetes. Many in vitro studies are promising, but the human body is much more complex than a test tube.