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Int Immunopharmacol. 2001 Apr;1(4):699-712.

Examination of the immunosuppressive effect of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in streptozotocin-induced autoimmune diabetes.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) is capable of modulating a variety of immune responses, but has not been evaluated in models of immune-based diabetes. The objectives of the present study were: (a) to investigate the effect of delta9-THC in an established model of multiple low dose streptozotocin (MLDSTZ)-induced autoimmune diabetes; and (b) to determine the contribution of the immune response in the MLDSTZ model. CD-1 mice were treated with 40 mg/kg STZ for 5 days in the presence or absence of delta9-THC treatment. delta9-THC administered orally in corn oil at 150 mg/kg for 11 days attenuated, in a transient manner, the MLDSTZ-induced elevation in serum glucose and loss of pancreatic insulin. MLDSTZ-induced insulitis and increases in IFN-gamma, TNFalpha and IL-12 mRNA expression were all reduced on Day 11 by co-administration of delta9-THC. In separate studies, six doses of delta9-THC, given after completion of STZ treatment, was found equally effective in attenuating mice from MLDSTZ-induced diabetes. Studies performed using B6C3F1 mice showed moderate hyperglycemia and a significant reduction in pancreatic insulin by MLDSTZ in the absence of insulitis. In addition, MLDSTZ produced a less pronounced hyperglycemia compared to CD-1 mice that was not attenuated by delta9-THC. These results suggest that MLDSTZ can initiate direct beta-cell damage, thereby augmenting the destruction of beta-cells by the immune system. Moreover, these results indicate that delta9-THC is capable of attenuating the severity of the autoimmune response in this experimental model of autoimmune diabetes.

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