Researchers from the Medical School's Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology have been the first in the world to show the cannabinoid CB2 receptor appears in the rat brain following a stroke.
Their findings were published recently in the journal Neuroscience Letters.
Dr John Ashton says the CB2 receptor is a protein produced as part of the body's immune response system.
"This response is triggered by stroke and causes the inflammation that leads to damage in the area of the brain around where the stroke has occurred.
"If the inflammation can be stopped or reduced then it offers the hope of reducing the extent of the da mage caused by stroke - and CB2 offers a potential target for such a drug."
Dr Ashton says cannabis targets both the CB2 and the related CB1 receptors.
"THC, the major active ingredient of cannabis, acts mainly on CB1 but it also affects CB2. While THC is known to have some positive effects in terms of pain management its use is severely limited because of the way it triggers the psychoactive CB1 receptors in the brain," he says.