Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How THC Mimics a Messenger Molecule

   Behaviors such as the  munchies, fertility and where you left your car keys all relate to a messenger molecule named anandamide. This molecule contributes to messages in the brain regarding to pain, depression, appetite, memory and fertility. The molecular structure of THC is very similar to anandamide. The similarity allows it mimic functions that this messenger molecule does. Anandamide breaks down very quickly not allowing humans to get to a “natural high”. THC takes more time to break down giving a psycho-active high.

   Messenger cells like anandamide are like a “key” that can attach to a nerve cell receptor acting like a “lock”. Once the messenger cell find a good connection with a receptor it can attach and open the nerve membrane to allow chloride ions to enter the cell. This equalizes the charges inside and outside the cell and prevents the cell from firing a charge. The “key” must be removed to allow the nerve cell to work again. Enzymes work to break down the “key” messenger molecules after a certain amount of time. The nerve cells will cease to work if the messenger molecule remains.(Source) In 1992 an Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam was able isolate anandamide as the “bliss” messenger cell that THC emulates. He was the same scientist that isolated THC in 1964.(Source)
How THC mimic's Anandamide

Anandamide and Memory

   Anandamide has been shown to create or destroy short term memory nerve connections. In animal studies an increase in anandamide results in forgetfulness.(Source) Anandamide helps to retain information like where you parked your car. It allows you to forget things like what the women was wearing at the checkout stand.(Source)

   A famous experiment known as the Morris Water Maze shows what happens to short term memory when anandamide is inhibited. Mice are placed in a water test area with a platform so they can climb out of the water. The platform is removed once the mice remember where it was placed. The mice will naturally look for the platform and realize it isn't there. They will then focus on surviving by swimming. Mice with a drug to block the anandamide will perpetually continue to look for the platform. They will forget that the platform isn't there.(Source)

Anandamide and Fertility

   Anandamide acts as a signaling when an embryo attaches to the female uterus. In fact anandamide is at a higher concentration in the uterus than the brain. Sperm contain receptors that accept the anandamide molecule. It is theorized that disrupting the function of anandamide therefore could interfere with fertility. More research is need to further investigate the relation between fertility and drugs that act like anadamide.(Source)

Similar Sources to Anandamide
   Chocolate has a similar structure to anandamide much like THC. Daniele Piomelli studied this as a scientist at the Neuroscience Instititute in San Diego. He found that chocolate has three compounds that mimic anandamide. Chocolate and THC behave differently as a messenger.  Piomelli states, “The response to THC and to the chocolate anandamides are not at all the same, even if the concentrations could be made comparable.” Chocolate may create a blissful feeling while not giving a high.(Source)

   Recently Piomelli found a naturally occurring molecule in the body that mimics anandamide. Sn-2 arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) can lock into the same bliss receptors. It is unique in that it works at 170 times the concentration of anandamide. The 2-AG molecules are found in different parts of the brain. Piomelli theorizes that the functions of anandamide and 2-AG are complementary.(Source)


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