A compound derived from pine bark is making waves as a new possibility for treating melanoma.
Interestingly, what it seems to do is the much of the same thing cannabis does: that is, work with cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the brain. These receptors are responsible for certain psycho and physiological activities and processes like stimulating appetite, feeling pain, memory and mood, as well as the ‘high’ received from cannabis. Inhibiting CB1 can reduce gastrointestinal activity, which is probably why THC or Marinol work to help control nausea and promote appetite.
CB1 receptors work with the brain, central nervous system, lungs, liver and kidneys, while CB2 is involved with the immune system and blood cells which stimulate cells like stem cells (for example, T-cells). Its suggested that CB1 receptors play a role in inflammatory diseases, cell death, cardiovascular inflammation, atherosclerosis and vascular inflammation. Diseases such as scleroderma may be indirectly related to CB1 activity.
Interestingly, endocannabinoid-CB1 receptors play an important role in prenatal and postnatal development – so much so that breast milk is being studied in the UK as a possible treatment for various cancers. Cannabinoids are critical to human development of brain matter, memory, motor development.
CB2 receptors are expressed in certain tumors like gliomas, which is one of the reasons cannabis oil may actually be effective with resolving childhood gliomas. While studies need to be completed in this area, the anecdotal evidence of children treated with cannabis oil for gliomas is staggeringly positive. It may well be due to young age and the fact that CB2 receptors are expressed with gliomas that this treatment offers promise. For adults, problems like osteoporosis and bone mass diseases may be directly related to CB2 signaling.
Striking a balance between normal CB1 and CB2 activity naturally is perhaps, the ultimate goal. It’s not known whether over or under production of the chemicals that work with these receptors are responsible for various diseases – but it does seem they play an important role in controlling many diseases, including – perhaps cancer.
Pine bark is also a pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK) inhibitor. Most of the cells in your body (except red blood cells) have little “engines” in them that convert food into chemicals that power cells. PDK inhibitors simply slow down the way the energy systems in most of the cells in your body produce energy. So it may be that treatments of this sort focus on another approach in the cancer treatment arsenal: closing down the power plants of cells, as it were.
Mitochondria produce energy. Mitochondria, found in every cell in the human body except for red blood cells, are known as “cellular power plants”. They convert the energy of food molecules into the chemicals that power most of your body’s cells. So, they do critical things like:
- Supply cellular energy
- Provide cellular differentation
- Cell Death
- and control cell cycle and cell growth
Slowing this process down may help control various diseases. These fundamental cells are also responsible for things like aging, severe autism, cardiac dysfunction, and can possibly help control the growth of cancer cells. Plus, a huge range of diseases caused by gene mutations which affect the way mitochondria work, which are still being discovered. Since the mitochondria are responsible for processing oxygen and converting substances from the foods we eat into energy for essential cellular functions, if there are problems with the mitochondria, it can lead to many defects for adults. These include Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, atherosclerotic heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Many medicines, by the way, can also injure the mitochondria.
One theory suggests that to increase the longevity of mitochondria is to simply eat less and more carefully. That is, cause mitochondria to burn less fuel, and avoid creating more oxidatative radicals (waste products) which can cause disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. But the most promising research seems to focus on restoring a healthy balance of cellular energy production.