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New Study Shows Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Could Inhibit Organ Rejection In Transplant Patients

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According to the September 2015 issue of The Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists at the University of South Carolina have discovered that THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, could potentially help prevent humans from rejecting organs after transplants.

While more research is clearly needed, this report shows that THC could provide a useful anti-rejection remedy, particularly for those patients where transplanted organs are less than a perfect match.

“We are excited to demonstrate for the first time that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in the prolongation of rejection of a foreign graft by suppressing immune response in the recipient,” noted Mitzi Nagarkatti, Ph.D., from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

“This opens up a new area of research that would lead to better approaches to prevent transplant rejection as well as to treat other inflammatory diseases.”

For their research, Dr. Nagarkatti and his colleagues selected two sets of lab mice that were genetically divergent, and transplanted skin from one set of mice to the other. While the test mice for this study all received genetically unsuitable skin, one set of mice was given a placebo treatment while the others were treated with Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. The researchers involved noticed a reduced rejection rate of the skin grafts for the mice that received THC. Asserting that the rejection of incompatible skin was deferred – particularly when compared to the control group that only received the placebo medication.

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According to John Wherry, Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, “More and more research is identifying potential beneficial effects of substances contained in marijuana, but a major challenge has been identifying the molecular pathways involved.” Wherry explained, “these new studies point to important roles for the cannabinoid receptors as targets that might be exploited using approaches that refine how we think about substances derived from marijuana.”

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