London: Scientists have developed an artificial cannabis-like molecule that could reduce pain and joint inflammation in osteoarthritis.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham developed the synthetic compound which inhibits a pain-sensing pathway in the spinal cord known as the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2).
Although cannabis can effectively relieve pain, its use in medicine is limited because of its other psychological effects.
The compound, called JWH133, is completely synthetic but is designed to selectively target CB2 in a similar way to the drug.
Levels of the CB2 receptor in the spinal cord have been shown to be closely linked to the severity of pain among osteoarthritis sufferers, 'The Telegraph' reported.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage at the ends of bones wears away, causing joint pain and stiffness.
There is no effective drug treatment to slow the progression of the condition, but interventions include pain relief, exercise, physiotherapy, weight loss and joint replacement.
"This finding is significant, as spinal and brain pain signalling pathways are known to make a major contribution to pain associated with osteoarthritis," said Professor Victoria Chapman, who led the study.
"These new data support the further evaluation of the selective cannabinoid-based interventions for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain," she said.
The study was published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal.