Marijuana may be known for many things but improved night vision has not been one of them. While many associate marijuana consumption with dry, red eyes, researchers have discovered a more beneficial side to marijuana’s effect on ocular health. A recent study conducted by researchers for the Montreal Neurological Institute has found marijuana to be effective at improving night vision. The medical cannabis research was published in the open access journal, eLife, and details the unexpected results of the study, which used tadpoles to discover the effects of cannabinoids on vision. The senior author of the study was Ed Ruthazer, who is a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University. He explained, “Initially you distrust yourself when you see something that goes against widely held ideas, but we tried the experiment so many times, using diverse techniques, and it was a consistent result.”
Why Use Tadpoles in Medical Cannabis Research?
Tadpoles are creatures that are known to be afraid of the dark, avoiding shadowy patches where predators may hide. Researchers applied a synthetic cannabinoid to the eyes of some tadpoles and used microelectrodes to see how retinal ganglion cells, whose fibers form the optic nerve, responded to the light. They found that the cannabinoid made the eyes more sensitive, increasing the rate of how the retinas responded to both bright and dim lighting, in comparison to tadpoles who were not treated with the cannabinoid. Researchers discovered that the reason for this was the inhibition of a protein known as NKCC1, through its action on the CB1 receptor. While more research is needed, the study can lead to finding treatments for degenerative eye conditions, like retinitis pigmentosa.
An Earlier Study in Morocco
The idea to test marijuana’s effect on night vision comes 25 years after Jamaican pharmacologist M.E. West first made the observation that fishermen who consumed marijuana had a much easier time navigating the dark and dangerous waters than those who did not consume the plant. The newest study elaborates on earlier medical cannabis research that followed Moroccan fishermen and mountain dwellers that claimed that their eyesight was better after smoking hashish. The medical cannabis research team travelled to the Rif mountains in Morocco to test the theory themselves. They gave a synthetic cannabinoid to 1 volunteer and hashish to a few more. Using a specially made device, the research crew were able to determine that the marijuana did, in fact, improve the night vision of all of the test subjects.
Human Subjects Required
This news provides hope for many people suffering from degenerative eye disorders. The research is still in its earliest stages and Ruthazer has made it clear that further studies are needed. Most importantly, human subjects will need to be studied in depth in order to get an idea of what strain, dosing and method works best to help eyesight. Various eye conditions will need to be studied to ascertain what treatment works best, but the news is still very encouraging. With proper study, these discoveries will help to revolutionize the treatment of a whole array of eye conditions.