The Endocannabinoid System as a Window Into Microglial Biology and Its Relationship to Autism.

Image result for frontiers in cellular neuroscience“Microglia are the resident, innate immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS) and are critical in managing CNS injuries and infections. Microglia also maintain CNS homeostasis by influencing neuronal development, viability, and function. However, aberrant microglial activity and phenotypes are associated with CNS pathology, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Thus, improving our knowledge of microglial regulation could provide insights into the maintenance of CNS homeostasis as well as the prevention and treatment of ASD.

Control of microglial activity is in part overseen by small, lipid-derived molecules known as endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids). Endocannabinoids are one component of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which also includes the enzymes that metabolize these ligands, in addition to cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2).

Interestingly, increased ECS signaling leads to an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective phenotype in microglia. Here, we review the literature and propose that ECS signaling represents a largely untapped area for understanding microglial biology and its relationship to ASD, with special attention paid to issues surrounding the use of recreational cannabis (marijuana). We also discuss major questions within the field and suggest directions for future research.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31619967

“Microglial activity can be modulated by eCB signaling, which makes the ECS a potentially forceful tool in the prevention and management of CNS dysfunction.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncel.2019.00424/full

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Preclinical and Clinical Evidence Supporting Use of Cannabidiol in Psychiatry.

Image result for hindawi “Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major chemical compound present in Cannabis sativa.

CBD is a nonpsychotomimetic substance, and it is considered one of the most promising candidates for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

The aim of this review is to illustrate the state of art about scientific research and the evidence of effectiveness of CBD in psychiatric patients.

RESULTS:

Preclinical and clinical studies on potential role of CBD in psychiatry were collected and further discussed. We found four clinical studies describing the effects of CBD in psychiatric patients: two studies about schizophrenic patients and the other two studies carried out on CBD effects in patients affected by generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD).

CONCLUSION:

Results from these studies are promising and suggest that CBD may have a role in the development of new therapeutic strategies in mental diseases, and they justify an in-depth commitment in this field. However, clinical evidence we show for CBD in psychiatric patients is instead still poor and limited to schizophrenia and anxiety, and it needs to be implemented with further studies carried out on psychiatric patients.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31558911

“Results of our research, enriched in assessment of methodological quality of the studies, confirm the view of this cannabinoid as a promising molecule especially in particular sectors of psychiatry such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and autism. CBD is considered a safe substance and is one of the most promising candidates for the treatment of psychiatric disorders”.

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2019/2509129/

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Cannabidivarin Treatment Ameliorates Autism-Like Behaviors and Restores Hippocampal Endocannabinoid System and Glia Alterations Induced by Prenatal Valproic Acid Exposure in Rats.

 Image result for frontiers in cellular neuroscience“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition whose primary features include social communication and interaction impairments with restricted or repetitive motor movements. No approved treatment for the core symptoms is available and considerable research efforts aim at identifying effective therapeutic strategies.

Emerging evidence suggests that altered endocannabinoid signaling and immune dysfunction might contribute to ASD pathogenesis. In this scenario, phytocannabinoids could hold great pharmacological potential due to their combined capacities to act either directly or indirectly on components of the endocannabinoid system and to modulate immune functions.

Among all plant-cannabinoids, the phytocannabinoid cannabidivarin (CBDV) was recently shown to reduce motor impairments and cognitive deficits in animal models of Rett syndrome, a condition showing some degree of overlap with autism, raising the possibility that CBDV might have therapeutic potential in ASD.

Here, we investigated the ability of CBDV treatment to reverse or prevent ASD-like behaviors in male rats prenatally exposed to valproic acid (VPA; 500 mg/kg i.p.; gestation day 12.5).

CBDV in symptomatic rats recovered social impairments, social novelty preference, short-term memory deficits, repetitive behaviors and hyperlocomotion whereas preventative treatment reduced sociability and social novelty deficits, short-term memory impairments and hyperlocomotion, without affecting stereotypies.

As dysregulations in the endocannabinoid system and neuroinflammatory markers contribute to the development of some ASD phenotypes in the VPA model, neurochemical studies were performed after symptomatic treatment to investigate possible CBDV’s effects on the endocannabinoid system, inflammatory markers and microglia activation in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

Prenatal VPA exposure increased CB1 receptor, FAAH and MAGL levels, enhanced GFAP, CD11b, and TNFα levels and triggered microglia activation restricted to the hippocampus. All these alterations were restored after CBDV treatment.

These data provide preclinical evidence in support of the ability of CBDV to ameliorate behavioral abnormalities resembling core and associated symptoms of ASD. At the neurochemical level, symptomatic CBDV restores hippocampal endocannabinoid signaling and neuroinflammation induced by prenatal VPA exposure.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31447649

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncel.2019.00367/full

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A phase 1/2, open-label assessment of the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of transdermal cannabidiol (ZYN002) for the treatment of pediatric fragile X syndrome.

 

Image result for journal of neurodevelopmental disorders“Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is characterized by a range of developmental, neuropsychiatric, and behavioral symptoms that cause significant impairment in those with the disorder.

Cannabidiol (CBD) holds promise as a potential treatment for FXS symptoms due to its safety profile and positive effects on a number of emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with FXS.

The aim of the current study was to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and initial efficacy of ZYN002, a transdermal CBD gel, in a pediatric population with FXS.

RESULTS:

The majority of treatment-emergent AEs (reported by 85% of participants) were mild in severity (70%), and no serious adverse events were reported. There was a statistically significant reduction in ADAMS total score from screening to week 12 and significant reductions on nearly all other secondary endpoints, including all ADAMS subscales (except depressed mood), all ABC-CFXS subscale scores (e.g., social avoidance, irritability), PARS-R total severity score, and PedsQL total score.

CONCLUSIONS:

ZYN002 was well tolerated and produced clinically meaningful reductions in anxiety and behavioral symptoms in children and adolescents with FXS. These findings support further study of ZYN002 in a randomized, well-controlled trial for the treatment of behavioral symptoms of FXS.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31370779

https://jneurodevdisorders.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s11689-019-9277-x

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Cannabidiol (CBD) reduces anxiety-related behavior in mice via an FMRP1-independent mechanism.

Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior

“Fragile X Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects intellectual, social and physical development due to mutation of the Fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. The resultant loss of Fragile X mental retardation protein can be modelled by Fmr1 gene knockout (KO) in mice.

The current study investigated the behavioural effects of cannabidiol (CBD; a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid) in male Fmr1 KO mice as a preclinical model for therapeutic discovery.

Overall, acute CBD at the doses chosen did not selectively normalize behavioural abnormalities in Fmr1 KO mice, but reduced anxiety-like behaviour in both Fmr1 KO and WT mice.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31063743

“Acute cannabidiol (CBD) decreased anxiety-related behaviours in both Fmr1 knockout mice and wildtype controls in the elevated plus maze. Fmr1 KO mice were hyperlocomotive, showed fewer anxiety-related behaviours and habituated more slowly to a novel environment than controls. Acute CBD had no impact on locomotion, spatial working memory or fear-associated memory in Fmr1 knockout mice or controls.”   https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305718306464?via%3Dihub

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Cannabidiol: Recent advances and new insights for neuropsychiatric disorders treatment.

Life Sciences

“The pharmacological research on the Cannabis sativa-derived compounds has never terminated. Among the phytocannabinoids without psychotropic effects, the prevalent one in Cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD). Although CBD was initially considered a type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB2R) antagonist, it did not show a good cannabinoidergic activity. Furthermore, heterogeneous results were obtained in experimental animal models of anxiety disorders, psychotic stages and neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, CBD has been authorized by the FDA to treat some rare forms of epilepsy and many trials have begun for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders. This review aims to clarify the pharmacological activity of CBD and its multiple therapeutic applications. Furthermore, critical and conflicting results of the research on CBD are discussed with a focus on promising future prospects.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30910646

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0024320519302176?via%3Dihub

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Role of the endocannabinoid system in neurological disorders.

International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience

“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in infancy. Although the etiology and pathogenesis are poorly understood, many studies have shown that ASD is closely related to structural and functional defects in the nervous system, especially synaptic transmission. The endocannabinoid (eCB) system is an important regulatory system of the central nervous system that regulates neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity and plays an important role in emotional and social responses and cognitive function. The relationship between eCB system and ASD has attracted increasing attention from scholars. In this review, we discuss the complex lipid signaling network of the eCB system, intracellular transport pathways, abnormal expression and association with various neurological diseases, and direct and indirect evidence for the link between eCB and ASD. Collectively, the findings to date indicate that the eCB system plays a key role in the pathophysiology of ASD and can provide new insights into potential interventions and rehabilitation strategies for ASD.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30858029

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0736574818302995?via%3Dihub

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Perspectives on the Role of Endocannabinoids in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

 Logo of nihpa

“Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are diagnosed on the basis of three behavioral features, namely, (1) deficits in social communication, (2) absence or delay in language and (3) stereotypy. The consensus regarding the neurological pathogenesis of ASDs is aberrant synaptogenesis and synapse function. Further, it is now widely accepted that ASD is neurodevelopmental in nature, placing emphasis on derangements occurring at the level of intra- and intercellular signaling during corticogenesis. At present, there is an ever-growing list of mutations in putative susceptibility genes in affected individuals, preventing effective transformation of knowledge gathered from basic science research to the clinic. In response, the focus of ASD biology has shifted toward the identification of cellular signaling pathways that are common to various ASD-related mutations in hopes that these shared pathways may serve as more promising treatment targets than targeting individual genes or proteins. To this end, the endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid, eCB) system has recently emerged as a promising therapeutic target in the field of ASD research. The eCB system is altered in several neurological disorders, but the role of these bioactive lipids in ASD etiology remains poorly understood. In this perspective, we review current evidence linking eCB signaling to ASDs and put forth the notion that continued focus on eCBs in autism research may provide valuable insight into pathophysiology and treatment strategies. In addition to its role in modulating transmitter release at mature synapses, the eCB signaling system plays important roles in many aspects of cortical development, and disruption of these effects of eCBs may also be related to ASD pathophysiology.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30854511

“Advances in our understanding of eCB actions will undoubtedly facilitate pharmacological interventions and further, provide patients the best quality of life possible.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6407886/

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The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator

Image result for journal of young investigators

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a very important role in the human body for our survival. This is due to its ability to play a critical role in maintaining the homeostasis of the human body, which encompasses the brain, endocrine, and immune system, to name a few. ECS is a unique system in multiple dimensions.

To begin with, it is a retrograde system functioning post- to pre-synapse, allowing it to be a “master regulator” in the body. Secondly, it has a very wide scope of influence due to an abundance of cannabinoid receptors located anywhere from immune cells to neurons. Finally, cannabinoids are rapidly synthesized and degraded, so they do not stay in the body for very long in high amounts, possibly enabling cannabinoid therapy to be a safer alternative to opioids or benzodiazepines. This paper will discuss how ECS functions through the regulation of neurotransmitter function, apoptosis, mitochondrial function, and ion-gated channels. The practical applications of the ECS, as well as the avenues for diseases such as epilepsy, cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and autism, which have no known cure as of now, will be explored.

The ECS is one of the, if not the most, important systems in our body. Its role in the homeostatic function of our body is undeniable, and its sphere of influence is incredible. Additionally, it also plays a major role in apoptotic diseases, mitochondrial function, and brain function.

Its contribution is more than maintaining homeostasis; it also has a profound ability in regulation. Working in a retrograde fashion and with a generally inhibitory nature, ECS can act as a “kill switch.” However, it has been shown to play an inhibitory or stimulatory role based on the size of the influx of cannabinoids, resulting in a bimodal regulation. Furthermore, due to the nature of the rate of degradation of cannabinoids, it does not have as many long-term side effects as most of the current drugs on the market.

The ECS may not only provide answers for diseases with no known cures, but it could change the way we approach medicine. This system would allow us to change our focus from invasive pharmacological interventions (i.e. SSRIs for depression, benzodiazepines for anxiety, chemotherapies for cancer) to uncovering the mystery of why the body is failing to maintain homeostasis. Understanding the roles of ECS in these diseases confers a new direction for medicine which may eradicate the use of some of the less tolerable therapeutics.”

https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator

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Lower circulating endocannabinoid levels in children with autism spectrum disorder.

 Image result for bmc molecular autism

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a major regulator of synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation. Alterations of the ECS have been demonstrated in several animal models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In some of these models, activating the ECS rescued the social deficits. Evidence for dysregulations of the ECS in human ASD are emerging, but comprehensive assessments and correlations with disease characteristics have not been reported yet.

METHODS:

Serum levels of the main endocannabinoids, N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA or anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and their related endogenous compounds, arachidonic acid (AA), N-palmitoylethanolamine (PEA), and N-oleoylethanolamine (OEA), were analyzed by liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry in 93 children with ASD (age = 13.1 ± 4.1, range 6-21; 79% boys) and 93 age- and gender-matched neurotypical children (age = 11.8 ± 4.3, range 5.5-21; 79% boys). Results were associated with gender and use of medications, and were correlated with age, BMI, and adaptive functioning of ASD participants as reflected by scores of Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2), Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale-II (VABS-II), and Social Responsiveness Scale-II (SRS-2).

RESULTS:

Children with ASD had lower levels (pmol/mL, mean ± SEM) of AEA (0.722 ± 0.045 vs. 1.252 ± 0.072, P < 0.0001, effect size 0.91), OEA (17.3 ± 0.80 vs. 27.8 ± 1.44, P < 0.0001, effect size 0.94), and PEA (4.93 ± 0.32 vs. 7.15 ± 0.37, P < 0.0001, effect size 0.65), but not AA and 2-AG. Serum levels of AEA, OEA, and PEA were not significantly associated or correlated with age, gender, BMI, medications, and adaptive functioning of ASD participants. In children with ASD, but not in the control group, younger age and lower BMI tended to correlate with lower AEA levels. However, these correlations were not statistically significant after a correction for multiple comparisons.

CONCLUSIONS:

We found lower serum levels of AEA, PEA, and OEA in children with ASD. Further studies are needed to determine whether circulating endocannabinoid levels can be used as stratification biomarkers that identify clinically significant subgroups within the autism spectrum and if they reflect lower endocannabinoid “tone” in the brain, as found in animal models of ASD.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30728928

https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-019-0256-6

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