A University of Dundee study has shown for the first time why cannabidiol (CBD) is gaining momentum as a treatment for skin disorders, also pointing to its potential as a therapy for other diseases, including cancer. With known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, this natural non-psychotropic cannabinoid has been tested in clinical trials for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease and is already being used to treat seizures associated with two severe forms of epilepsy.
Now a team led by Dr Laureano de la Vega in Dundee’s School of Medicine have identified the molecular target of cannabidiol in skin cells. Dr de la Vega said, “CBD has been promoted as a medical holy grail that supposedly can cure a vast array of conditions including anxiety, depression, inflammation, cancer and acne. Because of this, we wanted to reveal what CBD was actually doing in the cells of our skin and use that to inform the potential use of CBD for skin conditions.
“We, for the first time, have identified one of its mechanisms of action that can explain some of its beneficial effects in the skin. Now, with this information there is a basis to its use in cream-based products. Importantly, although CBD-based creams might be beneficial against some skin conditions, such as Epidermolysis Bullosa Simplex or to delay skin aging, our study also shows that CBD should be used with precaution in hyperproliferative skin disorders, such as psoriasis.”
Dr de la Vega and his colleagues showed that CBD targets a protein called BACH1 in skin cells. As BACH1 regulates the expression of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes, this new mechanism could help rationalise the potential use of CBD in some skin disorders associated to high levels of inflammation. Importantly, as BACH1 has emerged as a therapeutic target for lung and breast cancer, the study raises the possibility of new research focused on the potential use of CBD, or its derivatives as a cancer treatment. “This does not mean that CBD will cure cancer, it just means that now we have a rationale to investigate its potential in cancer research,” Dr de la Vega added.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Professor Eduardo Munoz of the University of Cordoba in Spain, is published in the journal Redox Biology.