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THC finding opens door for medicine that mimics cannabis

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Scientists have discovered that a receptor in the body that THC binds to is malleable, re-igniting the possibility of drugs that mimic cannabis, Wired reported.

Why this matters: Researchers have long sought to develop chemicals that offer the benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief and anti-nausea, without the unwanted side effects of getting high.

How it works: When someone smokes, THC binds to CB1 receptors on the surface of cells in the brain, liver, lungs and elsewhere in the body. This interaction causes the cells to release chemical signals that lead to the typical side effects of smoking like hunger, anxiety, and euphoria, for example. Previous years of research suggested that CB1 receptors only responded to a specific chemical, like a lock and key.