Interview with Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo
We are delighted to share another insightful interview with our community. This time we had the pleasure to talk to Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo.
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo
- Director of the Joint International Research Unit on Chemical and Biomolecular Research on the Microbiome between Université Laval and the CNR
- Canada Excellence Research Chair, Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada
- Research Director at the ICB-CNR in Pozzuoli Coordinator of the Endocannabinoid Research Group in Naples
Could you introduce yourself and share more about what you’re doing and what your focus is?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: I am an Associate Research Director at the National Research Council in Italy and the holder of a Canada Excellence Research Chair at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada. I also direct a Joint International Research Unit on Chemical and Biomolecular Research on the Microbiome between Université Laval and the CNR. I have been in endocannabinoid and plant cannabinoid research for over 25 years and I am currently investigating the functional relationship between the gut microbiome and the expanded endocannabinoid system (or endocannabinoidome) in the context of metabolic disorders and associated co-morbidities, neurological disorders and muscle dystrophies.
Why did you choose to be a Research Director and especially in Biochemistry?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: It was the dream of my life since when I was a child. I studied Chemistry at the University in order to do Biochemistry, and later went into Molecular Pharmacology and Neuropharnacology. I have been very lucky that I could do what I really dreamed to do when I was very young.
What does your everyday job involve? What do you like and what don’t about it?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: Planning research based on hypothesis. I do not do any wet lab work any longer, but I like participating in the planning of experiments. I also very much liking writing papers based on data and I always strive to construct an appealing story. I dislike the fact that there are less and less funds for research, from both public and private institutions, especially in countries like Italy, and the high degree of “bad” competition that, also for this reason, affects most of my colleagues these days.
Can you share more about your research on new methods and challenges of targeting the endocannabinoid system?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: The endocannabinoid system is not as simple as we believed at the beginning. Targeting the degradation of the biosynthesis of cannabinoid receptor ligands is no longer sufficient to achieve selective and indirect activation of cannabinoid receptors since these metabolic processes are now known to be shared with other lipid mediators, which act on non-cannabinoid receptors. Thus, hitting enzymes that degrade or biosynthesize the endocannabinoids might lead to alter the levels also of these other mediators and consequently change the activity of other molecular targets. For this reason we have been investigating “multi-target” drugs, and the non-euphoric cannabinoids, such as CBD, represent a very nice example of this strategy.
What do you think about CBD and Cannabis in general?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: I think that, except for rare examples of strictly standardized extracts, medical and pharmacological research should focus on pure cannabinoids or their combinations rather than on cannabis extracts of dubious source and no reproducible way of producing them, let alone cannabis (marijuana) smoking. Of course, some very ill people cannot wait the long times of drug development, and are therefore led to use such preparations. Therefore, there should be more and more funds dedicated to cannabinoid research in order to accelerate as much as possible the process of new drug development from these compounds.
Can you give us more details about the health benefits and risks? How CBD affects the body?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: CBD interacts with several receptors and proteins with know pharmacological action and biological role. This versatility possibly explains why it has been found to be efficacious in several preclinical studies in a plethora of disorders, and possibly why it is relatively safe in humans up to high doses.
Why do you think using CBD is beneficial and is it more effective than traditional methods?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: I disagree with the notion that CBD is different from “traditional” methods. With all due respect for traditional medicine, CBD is now a therapeutic drug approved from the FDA, so, in a way, it is as traditional as other natural product-derived drugs. Considering that most disorders are multi-factorial, i.e. they involve several mechanisms in different phases of disease, its benefits are probably due to its capability of modulating several molecular targets.
CBD edibles results show that the effects last longer than with inhalation. How can this be explained? What is your point of view?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: Honestly, I am not aware of these studies, and I am not 100% sure of what you mean with “CBD edibles”. CBD is now an approved therapeutic drug (e.g. against some rare and untreatable forms of pediatric epilepsy). In order to produce therapeutic effects it needs to be administered orally at doses and formulations that are difficult to achieve in “edibles”.
Anything we should watch out with CBD?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: It is pretty safe, even in children but, as with all therapeutic drugs that show efficacy, side effects have been reported. These are usually mild, in some case transitory, but could be disturbing on the long run for some patient populations. In general, CBD is a very well tolerated drug.
When do you recommend CBD? For what reasons?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: I cannot answer this question since I am not an MD and cannot prescribe drugs.
Do you use CBD?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: No, fortunately I have no conditions for which the use of CBD is prescribed.
Do you know of any CBD side effects? If yes, which ones?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: In a pediatric population it has been reported to induce somnolence and some mild diarrhea. Other minor side effects have also been reported.
Have you already been in contact with other Doctors, Nutritionists, Dieticians or other Experts about CBD? Can you name a few people you have worked and collaborated with?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: Only with Medical Doctors, or with pharmacologists like myself. As I mentioned before, I am not of the opinion that CBD, like other therapeutic drugs, should be used as a food supplement.
Do you have any tips for us and our blog platform?
Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo: Be always careful to explain that there is no such a thing as “one cannabis”, but several different types, whose properties strictly depend on their chemical components, i.e., in most cases, the cannabinoids. There is several (>100) such compounds, but only one of them has been shown to be responsible for the psychotropic effects of marijuana, which is prepared only from the flowers of those varieties of cannabis that contain high levels of THC (in the form of its acid precursor). Therefore: 1) there is not only one cannabis, 2) cannabis does not equate marijuana, and 3) cannabinoids does not equate THC.
Thanks again Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo for this very insightful interview.