Okay, out of the gate, cannabis does not make you superhuman and adding cannabinoids to your body during most diseases is not exactly straightforward. With that said, the comic and movie character known as Deadpool awoke a super slave after being treated worse than a fish during the Permian Extinction — minus the water. Mutations to cannabinoid receptors that cause any superpower may or may not have affected Wade Deadpool Wilson after he was exposed to extreme suffocation. But an entire species over some time might develop such a trait.
The short answer is simply that suffocation does not lead to superpowers. Certain reactions need enough time, such as converting CBD into THC. (3) In the case of suffocation and evolution, adaptations to stress will be minimal in one individual. Throughout several generations, however, enough time is allocated for small changes (in amino acids) to generate a noticeable effect. Imagine if you will, that Wade Wilson’s fictional persona, portrayed in the movies by Ryan Reynolds, simply represents multiple generations of one species or a clade.
After nature put life through incredible stress and torture, or acute and chronic anoxia, some species or clades found a way to survive. And we can only guess that Deadpool blazes to survive his own emotions. Joints dipped in nitroglycerin, anyone? Jokes aside, what about Deadpool’s ability to regenerate his rapidly progressing cancer and the role of cannabinoid receptors in that superpower — or rather — super disease?
Likewise, sharks are not impervious to cancer but heal rapidly; a species that survived a period of deadly low oceanic oxygen during the Great Dying. (4)
Endocannabinoid morphologies under hypoxemia
When the body is too full of carbon dioxide, the respiratory drive kicks in and induces inflammatory agents to open the airway. This process lets in more oxygen. The increase of inflammatory agents temporarily picks up cannabinoid receptors to try and compensate for the inflammatory stress. (2) Therefore, endocannabinoids uptick within vertebrates after a short period of extreme oxygen deprivation. At the same time, so does endocannabinoid degradation — unless a species finds a way to adapt and prevent inflammatory damage.
Cells deprived of oxygen, on the other hand, process glucose in a way that drives cancer. (5) Anaerobic glucose metabolism quells cancer by producing reactive oxygen species while, at the same time, it helps cancer grow. Cancer growth is simultaneously tied to cancer destruction in our bodies. And that process is partially regulated by messenger proteins controlled by PTEN genes (6) and cannabinoid receptors. Regulating the cellular metabolism of glucose is one target for cancer therapy, albeit less personalized.
Anandamide, one of the major endocannabinoids, helps facilitate regenerative properties. Let’s say the endocannabinoid system is forced to evolve under pressure once more. When that does inevitably happen, will a species achieve the superpower of rapid healing and regeneration similar to sharks or even Deadpool?
Let us know in the comments what you think the endocannabinoid system will look like in the future.
Stanley D, Kim Y. Why most insects have very low proportions of C20 polyunsaturated fatty acids: The oxidative stress hypothesis. Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2020;103(1):e21622. doi:10.1002/arch.21622
Morris, G., Sominsky, L., Walder, K.R. et al. Inflammation and Nitro-oxidative Stress as Drivers of Endocannabinoid System Aberrations in Mood Disorders and Schizophrenia. Mol Neurobiol (2022).
Russo, Ethan. (2017). Cannabidiol Claims and Misconceptions. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. 38. 10.1016/j.tips.2016.12.004.
Guinot G, Adnet S, Cavin L, Cappetta H. Cretaceous stem chondrichthyans survived the end-Permian mass extinction. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2669. doi:10.1038/ncomms3669
Sebastian, C., Ferrer, C., Serra, M. et al. A non-dividing cell population with high pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase activity regulates metabolic heterogeneity and tumorigenesis in the intestine. Nat Commun13, 1503 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29085-y
Lin, Y. X., Wang, Y., Ding, J., Jiang, A., Wang, J., Yu, M., Blake, S., Liu, S., Bieberich, C. J., Farokhzad, O. C., Mei, L., Wang, H., & Shi, J. (2021). Reactivation of the tumor suppressor PTEN by mRNA nanoparticles enhances antitumor immunity in preclinical models. Science translational medicine, 13(599), eaba9772.