Did They Make The Cure Illegal?
Part one: Neurogenesis             
Nathan Goodfellow

Introduction: Attention:  I was at an old friend’s house the other day, when he pulled out a blunt.  When he offered me a puff I declined.  He looked at me in surprise and said: “Yo… Dude, man… I like, uh the other day read… that this stuff makes you smarter… man… and if you… uh… like smoke it all the time and stuff, your brain gets bigger!”  I just looked at him and laughed.  “Naw, man… its for real… man, I read it on the internet.”  “Dude, you can’t even remember my name, and you’re trying to tell me smoking pot makes you smarter?  I think you smoked yourself retarded.”

Credibility:  So I went home, and did some research on the internet.  Sure enough, the old hippie wasn’t just blowing smoke.  Apparently two Canadian Universities have been studying how cannabis affects the brain.  The University of Saskatchewan and the University of Calgary have both done extensive research. (American Society for Clinical Investigation)

Thesis:  What I want you to understand today is how synthetic drugs created from marijuana are being used to create neruogenesis in the brain.

Importance: This is important not only because of the benefits of marijuana based drugs but also because further research in America is restricted due to its legality.

Preview: So today I am going to explain to you what neurogenesis is, how marijuana affects it and what the test results were when lab rats were injected with a marijuana derived compound.


I. What is hippocampal neurogenesis?

  A. Neurogenesis is the creation of neurons.

      1. Neurons are what our nerves and brain cells are composed of.

      2. Neurons allow our brain and nervous system to coordinate with each other. 

      3. Memory and motor function cells in the brain are also composed of neurons.  (Behavioral and Brain Sciences)

  B. The hippocampal part of the brain is the center of motor skills and memory.

      1. Inside the hippocampal region are neural stem/progenitor cells also known as NT/PC’s

      2. Neural stem/progenitor cells are what create neurons in the brain. (American Society for Clinical Investigation)


II. How does Marijuana affect hippocampal neurogenesis?

  A.  Drugs affect the hippocampal part of the brain.

      1. Cocaine, opiates and all other illicit drugs are known to have a negative effect on the hippocampal region with one exception.

      2. Cannabis is the only illegal drug that doesn’t affect neuron growth.

         a. THC is the active chemical in Marijuana that makes you high.

         b. THC reacts with CB receptors in the brain.

         c. The hippocampal region has been found to contain CB receptors.  (American Society for Clinical Investigation)

  B. A synthetic THC called HU210 was created for use in this study.

       1. Synthetic means it was grown in a laboratory.

       2. HU210 is 100 times more potent than THC itself.  (MedPage Today)

       3. HU210 reacts to the CB receptors in the same way as THC does. (American Society for Clinical Investigation)


III. What happened when lab rats were injected with HU210?

  A. Lab rats were injected twice a day over a 10 day period.

      1. Neurogenesis did not occur immediately.

      2. Changes were seen after chronic injections over a few weeks.  (American Society for Clinical Investigation)

  B. The neural stem/progenitor cells that create neurons showed increased activity

      1. New neurons were grown due to HU210 reacting with the CB receptors stimulating the NS/PC to increase neuro
n growth.

      2. The new neurons are unchanged compared to those that were created naturally.  (American Society for Clinical Investigation)


Closing:  Does marijuana make you smarter?  No.  The study is using a synthetic THC compound that was injected into lab rats.  There is no proof of smoke or ingested THC having the same results.  However this study does show that there is a possibility of marijuana being used to cure: nausea, depression, anxiety, obesity, lung cancer and skin cancer. It also may give us new ways to better manage pain. (MedPage Today)  But before you go running home to smoke a joint remember: Marijuana is still illegal, and by using it you are breaking the law.  Denver, Colorado legalized marijuana shortly after this study was released.  Will Austin be next?

Sources Cited:

American Society for Clinical Investigation – Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects
J. Clin. Invest.
115:3104-3116 (2005). doi:10.1172/JCI25509.

MedPage Today – Marijuana May Grow Neurons in the Brain
Michael Smith.  October 14, 2005

Behavioral and Brain Sciences – Two functional components of the hippocampal memory system. 17 (3): 449-517.