Marijuana May Help Delay Organ Rejection in Transplant Patients


Active ingredient in marijuana THC may improve acceptance of transplanted organs.

Active ingredient in marijuana THC may improve acceptance of transplanted organs.

Marijuana may be a viable option for transplant patients who are having trouble with their bodies accepting the new organ, a recent study suggests. The research, conducted in mice, indicated that the active ingredient THC in marijuana may delay the rejection of incompatible organs.

While more research needs to be done in order to confirm these benefits in humans, the research does suggest that the use of marijuana may prove to be a useful antirejection therapy to patients experiencing difficulty with accepting donated organs.

“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,” said Mitzi Nagarkatti, PhD, a researcher involved in the work 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.”

In making this discovery, the team of researchers grafted skin from one group of mice to another group of genetically different mice. All of the mice received incompatible skin, but one group was treated with a placebo and the other were treated with THC.

Scientists observed a delay in the rejection of the skin grafts in those mice that received THC treatment. The same was not observed in those that received the placebo.

It should be noted that patients should not use marijuana as a treatment method for ill-received transplants without the consent of their physician and should only do so in compliance with any and all local, state, and federal laws.

“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,” said John Wherry, PhD, deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “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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