Potentially New Treatment For Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis of the liver, which usually develops as a long-term consequence of chronic alcoholism or viral hepatitis, is associated with damage to liver tissue and loss of liver function, fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), increased pressure in the blood vessels (portal hypertension) and vasodilation of the systemic circulation resulting in low blood pressure.
The vasodilated state of blood vessels in the periphery markedly increases mortality, but conventional medications that should be able to counter vessel dilation do not work on cirrhotic vessels. Now, a team of scientists from the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism has discovered that vasodilation in cirrhosis is mediated through receptors for endogenous cannabinoids (specifically CB1) and can be reduced in a rat model using a compound that blocks these receptors - SR141716A (Nature Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 7, 01 July 2001, page 827). Additionally, they have discovered that cirrhotic human livers contain increased numbers of cannabinoid receptors.
The findings point to endogenous cannabinoids such as anadamide as being responsible for the cirrhotic vasodilation. If this proves to be true in humans, the authors write, “…antagonists of these receptors might offer a therapeutic approach to the management of patients with advanced liver cirrhosis…”
Dr. George Kunos
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism
National Institutes of Health
Tel: (+1) 301-402-1226
Fax: (+1) 301-443-5894
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza