Cannabinoid Agonist Significantly Increases ALS Life Span, Study Says

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Little Rock, AR: Administration of the selective cannabinoid agonist AM-1241 significantly increases the survival of mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and may ultimately lead to the development of new cannabis-based medications to treat the disease in humans, according to preclinical findings to be published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Investigators at the University of Arkansas, College of Medicine, reported that mice administered high daily doses of AM-1241 after ALS symptom onset lived up to 56 percent longer than controls.

"[T]he magnitude of effect produced by AM-1241 initiated at symptom onset rivals the best yet reported for any pharmaceutical agent, even those given pre-symptomatically," authors wrote. "[The] findings from this study indicate that [cannabinoid] agonists may ultimately be developed as novel therapeutic drugs that can be administered alone or in combination with other agents at symptom onset for the treatment of ALS in human patients."

Previous studies with THC report that it delays motor impairment and increases survival in animal models of ALS at rates slightly less than those obtained by the administration of low doses of AM-1241.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by the selective loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord, brain stem, and motor cortex. An estimated 30,000 Americans are living with ALS, which often arises spontaneously and afflicts otherwise healthy adults. More than half of ALS patients die within 2.5 years following the onset of symptoms.

Currently, no effective pharmaceutical medications exist to stave ALS progression.

Some investigators speculate that the endocannabinoid receptor system may protect against certain neurodegenerative disorders like ALS by exhibiting neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory actions to combat disease symptoms.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "The CB2 cannabinoid agonist AM-1241 prolongs survival in a transgenic mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when initiated at symptom onset," will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry. Additional information on cannabinoids and ALS is available in NORML's new report, "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids," available online at: http://www.norml.org//index.cfm?Group_ID=7004.