- Researchers are studying a lab-grown weed molecule that only gives users the munchies.
- It’s being developed as a treatment for wasting syndrome, which affects people with cancer and HIV.
- The cannabinoid also helps patients better store fat to prevent malnourishment.
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Scientists at Artelo Biosciences in California are developing a synthetic cannabis molecule, or cannabinoid, that gets a user hungry, but not high.
Artelo CEO Greg Gorgas says the cannabinoid, called ART27.13, could increase cancer patients’ lives and pave the way for future HIV wasting syndrome treatments. It’s currently being studied in the UK.
An increasing number of states have legalized cannabis for medicinal use, including for a condition called cachexia, a cancer-related wasting syndrome that causes patients to lose their appetites and become malnourished.
For cachexia patients who seek relief without the intoxicating effects of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, ART27.13 could soon be their solution.
Delivering hunger without the high
People with wasting syndrome related to terminal illness lose their appetites. Their bodies also have trouble storing fat, which leads to rapid muscle and fat loss.
According to Gorgas, ART27.13 is designed to fix both of these diet deficiencies because it targets endocannabinoid receptors in the stomach, intestines, and esophageal tract.
Endocannabinoid receptors are part of the body’s expansive endocannabinoid system. When a person consumes cannabis, various molecules like THC and CBD enter the body and interact with receptors throughout to create certain effects. For example, when THC interacts with the brain’s endocannabinoid system, it results in a high that may leave you feeling calm, fuzzy in the brain, or giddy.
When THC interacts with the digestive system’s endocannibinoid receptors, it elicits a hunger response that tells the brain it’s time to eat.
Artelo researchers harnessed that response, removing THC’s ability to directly impact brain function. The result is hunger without the high.
Preliminary studies have also shown ART27.13 to help users better store fat from the food they eat, said Gorgas. That’s because the lab-grown cannabinoid tells insulin receptors to produce more of the hormone, which can cause weight gain.
The special cannabinoid could help cancer, HIV, and anorexia patients
Researchers are currently testing ART27.13 in a small randomized controlled trial.
Every day for 90 days, 50 study participants swallow a capsule with 150 micrograms of ART27.13. Researchers measure their lean body mass, weight gain, and quality of life, to track progress.
They’ll also do trials with a 250 microgram dose and a 400 microgram dose to “achieve a balance between safety and efficacy,” said Gorgas.
He hopes the results pave the way for other nutrition-related maladies, like anorexia and HIV-related wasting.
Gorgas told Insider he’s thankful for stoners with munchie madness, who inspired him to research therapeutic uses for cannabinoids.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to users of cannabis who have for years taught us the ingestion of cannabis can lead to a stimulation of appetite,” said Gorgas. “I’ve often made the joke, ‘That’s why Taco Bell is open 24/7!'”