Among the many benefits of marijuana, such as its ability to inhibit cancer growth and halt seizures, the treatment of glaucoma has been long-standing and widely accepted. Well, a new study indicates the herb could also work to prevent blindness from another eye disease—retinitis pigmentosa.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a condition that destroys the light sensors of the eye. This degenerative condition acts on the millions of microscopic photoreceptors and can lead to blindness. Currently, there is no known solution. But in this most recent study, researchers made headway in establishing cannabis as a potential treatment.
Published in Experimental Eye Research, the study “Neuroprotective effects of the cannabinoid agonist HU210 on retinal degeneration” interestingly used a synthetic cannabinoid known as HU210 to test the value of treating photoreceptor degeneration.
Over a study period of 90 days, the rats treated with HU210 experienced far less damage to their photoreceptors. As a matter of fact, they had 40 percent more of these light sensors left in their eyes when compared with the untreated rats. In addition, the rats treated with the synthetic cannabinoid had “improved connectivity between photoreceptors and their postsynaptic neurons,”—the neurons that receive and process the light signals.
Although the researchers could not identify how the cannabinoid worked and stressed more research is needed, they did say their findings were promising.
Put scientifically, the study’s abstract reads:
“This attenuation of visual deterioration correlated with a delay in photoreceptor degeneration and the preservation of retinal cytoarchitecture. HU210-treated animals had 40% more photoreceptors than untreated animals. Presynaptic and postsynaptic elements, as well as the synaptic contacts between photoreceptors and bipolar or horizontal cells, were also preserved in HU210-treated P23H rats. These results indicate that HU210 preserves cone and rod structure and function, together with their contacts with postsynaptic neurons, in P23H rats. These data suggest that cannabinoids are potentially useful to delay retinal degeneration in RP patients.”
Put simply, cannabinoids could preserve rod and cone structure, retinal function, and photoreceptor contacts. Further, they could be used to delay potential blindness in people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa. Hopefully non-synthetic cannabis-derived compounds will be used in the future for further experimentation, as synthetics are often questionable in nature.