ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM: A multi-facet therapeutic target.

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“Cannabis sativa is also popularly known as marijuana. It is being cultivated and used by man for recreational and medicinal purposes from many centuries.

Study of cannabinoids was at bay for very long time and its therapeutic value could not be adequately harnessed due to its legal status as proscribed drug in most of the countries.

The research of drugs acting on endocannabinoid system has seen many ups and down in recent past. Presently, it is known that endocannabinoids has role in pathology of many disorders and they also serve “protective role” in many medical conditions.

Several diseases like emesis, pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, epilepsy, glaucoma, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome related diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome could possibly be treated by drugs modulating endocannabinoid system.

Presently, cannabinoid receptor agonists like nabilone and dronabinol are used for reducing the chemotherapy induced vomiting. Sativex (cannabidiol and THC combination) is approved in the UK, Spain and New Zealand to treat spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. In US it is under investigation for cancer pain, another drug Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is also under investigation in US for childhood seizures. Rimonabant, CB1 receptor antagonist appeared as a promising anti-obesity drug during clinical trials but it also exhibited remarkable psychiatric side effect profile. Due to which the US Food and Drug Administration did not approve Rimonabant in US. It sale was also suspended across the EU in 2008.

Recent discontinuation of clinical trial related to FAAH inhibitor due to occurrence of serious adverse events in the participating subjects could be discouraging for the research fraternity. Despite of some mishaps in clinical trials related to drugs acting on endocannabinoid system, still lot of research is being carried out to explore and establish the therapeutic targets for both cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists.

One challenge is to develop drugs that target only cannabinoid receptors in a particular tissue and another is to invent drugs that acts selectively on cannabinoid receptors located outside the blood brain barrier. Besides this, development of the suitable dosage forms with maximum efficacy and minimum adverse effects is also warranted.

Another angle to be introspected for therapeutic abilities of this group of drugs is non-CB1 and non-CB2 receptor targets for cannabinoids.

In order to successfully exploit the therapeutic potential of endocannabinoid system, it is imperative to further characterize the endocannabinoid system in terms of identification of the exact cellular location of cannabinoid receptors and their role as “protective” and “disease inducing substance”, time-dependent changes in the expression of cannabinoid receptors.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27086601

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Therapeutic potential of cannabinoid medicines.

Drug Testing and Analysis

“Cannabis was extensively used as a medicine throughout the developed world in the nineteenth century but went into decline early in the twentieth century ahead of its emergence as the most widely used illicit recreational drug later that century. Recent advances in cannabinoid pharmacology alongside the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) have re-ignited interest in cannabis-based medicines.

The ECS has emerged as an important physiological system and plausible target for new medicines. Its receptors and endogenous ligands play a vital modulatory role in diverse functions including immune response, food intake, cognition, emotion, perception, behavioural reinforcement, motor co-ordination, body temperature, wake/sleep cycle, bone formation and resorption, and various aspects of hormonal control. In disease it may act as part of the physiological response or as a component of the underlying pathology.

In the forefront of clinical research are the cannabinoids delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, and their contrasting pharmacology will be briefly outlined. The therapeutic potential and possible risks of drugs that inhibit the ECS will also be considered. This paper will then go on to review clinical research exploring the potential of cannabinoid medicines in the following indications: symptomatic relief in multiple sclerosis, chronic neuropathic pain, intractable nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight in the context of cancer or AIDS, psychosis, epilepsy, addiction, and metabolic disorders.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24006213

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dta.1529/abstract

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The Major Brain Endocannabinoid 2-AG Controls Neuropathic Pain and Mechanical Hyperalgesia in Patients with Neuromyelitis Optica.

“Recurrent myelitis is one of the predominant characteristics in patients with neuromyelitis optica (NMO). While paresis, visual loss, sensory deficits, and bladder dysfunction are well known symptoms in NMO patients, pain has been recognized only recently as another key symptom of the disease. Although spinal cord inflammation is a defining aspect of neuromyelitis, there is an almost complete lack of data on altered somatosensory function, including pain. Therefore, eleven consecutive patients with NMO were investigated regarding the presence and clinical characteristics of pain. All patients were examined clinically as well as by Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) following the protocol of the German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain (DFNS). Additionally, plasma endocannabinoid levels and signs of chronic stress and depression were determined. Almost all patients (10/11) suffered from NMO-associated neuropathic pain for the last three months, and 8 out of 11 patients indicated relevant pain at the time of examination. Symptoms of neuropathic pain were reported in the vast majority of patients with NMO. Psychological testing revealed signs of marked depression. Compared to age and gender-matched healthy controls, QST revealed pronounced mechanical and thermal sensory loss, strongly correlated to ongoing pain suggesting the presence of deafferentation-induced neuropathic pain. Thermal hyperalgesia correlated to MRI-verified signs of spinal cord lesion. Heat hyperalgesia was highly correlated to the time since last relapse of NMO. Patients with NMO exhibited significant mechanical and thermal dysesthesia, namely dynamic mechanical allodynia and paradoxical heat sensation. Moreover, they presented frequently with either abnormal mechanical hypoalgesia or hyperalgesia, which depended significantly on plasma levels of the endogenous cannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerole (2-AG). These data emphasize the high prevalence of neuropathic pain and hyperalgesia in patients with NMO. The degree of mechanical hyperalgesia reflecting central sensitization of nociceptive pathways seems to be controlled by the major brain endocannabinoid 2-AG.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23951176

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The endocannabinoid system and its therapeutic exploitation.

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“The term ‘endocannabinoid’ – originally coined in the mid-1990s after the discovery of membrane receptors for the psychoactive principle in Cannabis, Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and their endogenous ligands – now indicates a whole signalling system that comprises cannabinoid receptors, endogenous ligands and enzymes for ligand biosynthesis and inactivation. This system seems to be involved in an ever-increasing number of pathological conditions. With novel products already being aimed at the pharmaceutical market little more than a decade since the discovery of cannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoid system seems to hold even more promise for the future development of therapeutic drugs. We explore the conditions under which the potential of targeting the endocannabinoid system might be realized in the years to come.”  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15340387

http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v3/n9/full/nrd1495.html

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From cannabis to the endocannabinoid system: refocussing attention on potential clinical benefits.

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“Cannabis sativa is one of the oldest herbal remedies known to man. Over the past four thousand years, it has been used for the treatment of numerous diseases but due to its psychoactive properties, its current medicinal usage is highly restricted. In this review, we seek to highlight advances made over the last forty years in the understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the effects of cannabis on the human body and how these can potentially be utilized in clinical practice. During this time, the primary active ingredients in cannabis have been isolated, specific cannabinoid receptors have been discovered and at least five endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids) have been identified. Together, these form the framework of a complex endocannabinoid signalling system that has widespread distribution in the body and plays a role in regulating numerous physiological processes within the body. Cannabinoid ligands are therefore thought to display considerable therapeutic potential and the drive to develop compounds that can be targeted to specific neuronal systems at low enough doses so as to eliminate cognitive side effects remains the ‘holy grail’ of endocannabinoid research.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23155985

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Targeting the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoid receptor agonists: pharmacological strategies and therapeutic possibilities.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences: 367 (1607)

“Human tissues express cannabinoid CB(1) and CB(2) receptors that can be activated by endogenously released ‘endocannabinoids’ or exogenously administered compounds in a manner that reduces the symptoms or opposes the underlying causes of several disorders in need of effective therapy. Three medicines that activate cannabinoid CB(1)/CB(2) receptors are now in the clinic: Cesamet (nabilone), Marinol (dronabinol; Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC)) and Sativex (Δ(9)-THC with cannabidiol). These can be prescribed for the amelioration of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (Cesamet and Marinol), stimulation of appetite (Marinol) and symptomatic relief of cancer pain and/or management of neuropathic pain and spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis (Sativex). This review mentions several possible additional therapeutic targets for cannabinoid receptor agonists. These include other kinds of pain, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, cancer, drug dependence, glaucoma, autoimmune uveitis, osteoporosis, sepsis, and hepatic, renal, intestinal and cardiovascular disorders. It also describes potential strategies for improving the efficacy and/or benefit-to-risk ratio of these agonists in the clinic. These are strategies that involve (i) targeting cannabinoid receptors located outside the blood-brain barrier, (ii) targeting cannabinoid receptors expressed by a particular tissue, (iii) targeting upregulated cannabinoid receptors, (iv) selectively targeting cannabinoid CB(2) receptors, and/or (v) adjunctive ‘multi-targeting’.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23108552

“Targeting the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoid receptor agonists: pharmacological strategies and therapeutic possibilities”  http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1607/3353.long

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The therapeutic potential of novel cannabinoid receptors.

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“Cannabinoids produce a plethora of biological effects, including the modulation of neuronal activity through the activation of CB(1) receptors and of immune responses through the activation of CB(2) receptors. The selective targeting of either of these two receptor subtypes has clear therapeutic value. Recent evidence indicates that some of the cannabinomimetic effects previously thought to be produced through CB(1) and/or CB(2) receptors, be they on neuronal activity, on the vasculature tone or immune responses, still persist despite the pharmacological blockade or genetic ablation of CB(1) and/or CB(2) receptors. This suggests that additional cannabinoid and cannabinoid-like receptors exist. Here we will review this evidence in the context of their therapeutic value and discuss their true belonging to the endocannabinoid signaling system.”  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19248809

“The therapeutic potential of novel cannabinoid receptors”  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163725809000266

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