Technische Universität München

The Entrepreneurial University

It is now clear that endogenous cannabinoid ligands and cannabinoid receptors are found in both the brain and the periphery, especially in cells of the immune system. In vitro studies have shown that cannabinoids modulate immune cells, such as T cells and macrophages. Cannabinoids can modulate both the function and secretion of cytokines from immune cells. Therefore, cannabinoids may be considered for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.
Cannabinoids are immunomodulators which can either stimulate or decrease immune function. In fact, some studies suggest that cannabinoids modulate the function of T and B lymphocytes, as well as NK cells and macrophages. Cannabinoids may enhance a disease, therefore, the use of marijuana may increase susceptibility to infectious diseases, as it has been reported in teenagers who were marijuana users.
In addition, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) affected cytokine production, especially chemokines and IL-10 produced by T and B cells, NK and myeloid cells. These alterations may result in a defective immune function and alterations in the response to infections, including retro-viruses, such as HIV in marijuana users. In conclusion, cannabinoids have specific effects on chemokine and cytokine expression by populations of  T cells, B cells, NK cells, and macrophages which could be beneficial to autoimmune/inflammatory diseases but may enhance infectious diseases, tumorigenesis or exacerbate allergic inflammation in the lung.