UCI News

Marijuana-like brain chemicals work as antidepressant

Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the University…

November 6, 2007

Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the University of California, Irvine, and researchers have found that boosting the amounts of a marijuana-like brain transmitter called anandamide effectively works as an antidepressant. The findings raise the hope that the mood-elevating properties of marijuana can be harnessed to treat depression. Marijuana itself has shown no clinical use for depression, Piomelli said, but specific drugs that amplify the actions of natural marijuana-like transmitters in the brain are showing great promise. For the study, Piomelli and colleagues in Italy and the U.S. employed a synthetic molecule they created called URB597. Clinical studies on drugs based on the molecule will begin in 2008.