Theiler murine encephalomyelitis virus–induced demyelinating disease (TMEV-IDD) is a mouse model of chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) characterized by Th1-mediated CNS demyelination and spastic hindlimb paralysis. Existing MS therapies reduce relapse rates in 30% of relapsing-remitting MS patients, but are ineffective in chronic-progressive disease, and their effects on disability progression are unclear. Experimental studies demonstrate cannabinoids are useful for symptomatic treatment of spasticity and tremor in chronic-relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Cannabinoids, however, have reported immunosuppressive properties. We show that the cannabinoid receptor agonist, R(+)WIN55,212, ameliorates progression of clinical disease symptoms in mice with preexisting TMEV-IDD. Amelioration of clinical disease is associated with downregulation of both virus and myelin epitope-specific Th1 effector functions (delayed-type hypersensitivity and IFN-γ production) and the inhibition of CNS mRNA expression coding for the proinflammatory cytokines, TNF-α, IL1-β, and IL-6. Clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for the symptomatic treatment of MS are ongoing, and this study demonstrates that they may also have potent immunoregulatory properties.
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