Marijuana could be used to treat autoimmune diseases
Image: opra/Shutterstock

A study conducted at the University of South Carolina, in the US, has shown that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), one of the main ingredients in marijuana, may affect DNA expression and can reduce inflammation, meaning cannabis could be used as a treatment for arthritis, lupus, colitis, multiple sclerosis and other diseases in which inflammation plays a key role.

The study was conducted in mice, and although it shows promise, the scientists still need to understand how THC affects microRNA expression.

"MicroRNA therapeutics is an important, rapidly growing area with major pharmaceutical companies getting into this discovery and development," Nagarkatti said in a press release. "While our study identifies the molecular mechanism of immune-altering effects of marijuana, select microRNA identified here could serve as important molecular targets to manipulate MDSC activity in cancer and inflammatory diseases."

This is not the first time that cannabis has been shown to decrease inflammation. A study from 2003 reported that marijuana smokers had lowers levels of an inflammation-promoting protein known as interleukin-2.