Xandy Melissa, Rodríguez Mesa, Andrés Felipe Moreno Vergara, Leonardo Andrés Contreras Bolaños, Natalia Guevara Moriones, Antonio Luis Mejía Piñeros, and Sandra Paola Santander González

Published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research

May 2021


Introduction:  Cannabinoids such as ▵-9-THC and CBD can downregulate the immune response by modulating the endocannabinoid system. This modulation is relevant for the treatment of prevalent autoimmune diseases (ADs), such as multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), diabetes mellitus type 1 (DMT1), and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These conditions require new therapeutic options with fewer side effects for the control of the autoimmune response. Objective: to conduct a literature review of preclinical scientific evidence that supports further clinical investigations for the use of cannabinoids (natural or synthetic) as potential immunomodulators of the immune response in ADs.

Methodology: A systematic search was carried out in different databases using different MeSH terms, such as Cannabis sativa L., cannabinoids, immunomodulation, and ADs. Initially, 677 journal articles were found. After filtering by publication date (from 2000 to 2020 for SLE, DMT1, and RA; and 2010 to 2020 for MS) and removing the duplicate items, 200 articles were selected and analyzed by title and summary associated with the use of cannabinoids as immunomodulatory treatment for those diseases.

Results: Evidence of the immunomodulatory effect of cannabinoids in the diseases previously mentioned, but SLE that did not meet the search criteria, was summarized from 24 journal articles. CBD was found to be one of the main modulators of the immune response. This molecule decreased the number of Th1 and Th17 proinflammatory cells and the production of the proinflammatory cytokines, interleukin (IL)-1, IL-12, IL-17, interferon (IFN)-γ, and tumor necrosis factor alpha, in mouse models of MS and DMT1. Additionally, new synthetic cannabinoid-like molecules, with agonist or antagonist activity on CB1, CB2, TRPV1, PPAR-α, and PPAR-γ receptors, have shown anti-inflammatory properties in MS, DMT1, and RA.

Conclusion:  Data from experimental animal models of AD showed that natural and synthetic cannabinoids downregulate inflammatory responses mediated by immune cells responsible for AD chronicity and progression. Although synthetic cannabinoid-like molecules were evaluated in just two clinical trials, they corroborated the potential use of cannabinoids to treat some ADs. Notwithstanding, new cannabinoid-based approaches are required to provide alternative treatments to patients affected by the large group of ADs.

Open Access


DOI: 10.1089/can.2020.0183


Rodríguez Mesa, X. M., Moreno Vergara, A. F., Contreras Bolaños, L. A., Guevara Moriones, N., Mejía Piñeros, A. L., & Santander González, S. P. (2021). Therapeutic Prospects of Cannabinoids in the Immunomodulation of Prevalent Autoimmune Diseases. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.