Monday, May 26, 2008

Skin Cancer and Marijuana

University of Minnesota researchers looking to answer the question ‘why does ultraviolet light induce skin cancer?’ believe they have found how sun-induced skin cancer starts. They found the cancer starts in receptor molecules or molecular “hooks” on the outer surface of cells that also pull cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana out of the bloodstream.
These receptor molecules are protein structures that are components of a cell’s outer membrane. They act like receiving docks and catch specific compounds from the blood and enable the cells to engulf or interact with the compounds.
The researchers found that two receptors for cannabinoids also responded to UV light. They made the discovery during a search for the initial interaction between UV light and human skin cells.
If cannabinoid receptors are important in the initiation of skin cancer by UV light, then animals that lack the receptors should be relatively protected from the ravages of the light
Working with mouse embryos, the researchers removed the genes for the cannabinoid receptors. They found that the skin of the resulting adult mice, which lacked the receptors, was resistant to the development of UV-induced inflammation and skin tumors called papillomas.
The next question is why evolution should have produced receptors that respond to both UV light and cannabinoids?

Chandan Mangar

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