Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dr. Daniele Piomelli

Dr. Piomelli is a professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine. He runs the Piomelli lab which researches the messenger molecules that affect the function of the brain and organs. His goal is to understand how we experience pain, feel anxious, crave food, our sleep patterns, and inflammation as a result of brain signaling. Dr. Piomelli's research has led him to become an advocate for the use of medical marijuana.

Mapping the brain’s signaling has led Piomelli's research to focus on the endocannabinoid system. Our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids that work with the endocannabinoid system in order to regulate the messenger system in our body. Cannabis has cannabinoids that attach to the same cell receptors, resulting in similar effects. By increasing or decreasing the endocannabinoid system, Piomelli is discovering ways to treat pain, depression, and inflammation with the use of marijuana. His results have proven to be more effective with fewer negative effects than current prescription drug medication.

Piomelli comes from Naples, Italy; there his family owned a pharmacy for over 400 years. Keeping with his family tradition, Piomelli has taken pharmacology further in the search for new drugs. Piomelli states, "The study of the body's cannabinoid system is relatively young, scientifically speaking, but it's presenting promising opportunities for drug discovery... I feel we're on the forefront of a new frontier." Piomelli has been studying the endocannabinoid system since its discovery in the late 1980's.

In the 1990's, Piomelli published research in the scientific journal Nature which discussed how the endocannabinoid compound anandamide is created. This “bliss molecule” triggers behavior with appetite, motivation, and pleasure. Piomelli found that it helps patients cope with stress and depression.

Piomelli advocates for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. He has also lamented the struggle he’s faced while researching marijuana due to its Schedule I drug classification. Piomelli states that cannabis can be difficult to dose correctly in its natural state as each flower has a different potency. Despite these hurdles, he still finds marijuana to be a powerful drug, meant to treat many conditions.


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