Role of CB2 receptors in neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids.

“CB2 receptors, the so-called peripheral cannabinoid receptor type, were first described in the immune system, but they have been recently identified in the brain in healthy conditions and, in particular, after several types of cytotoxic stimuli. Specifically, CB2 receptors were identified in microglial cells, astrocytes and, to a lesser extent, in certain subpopulations of neurons.

Given the lack of psychoactivity demonstrated by selective CB2 receptor agonists, this receptor becomes an interesting target for the treatment of neurological diseases, in particular, the case of certain neurodegenerative disorders in which induction/up-regulation of CB2 receptors has been already demonstrated. These disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s chorea, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and others. Interestingly, in experimental models of these disorders, the activation of CB2 receptors has been related to a delayed progression of neurodegenerative events, in particular, those related to the toxic influence of microglial cells on neuronal homeostasis.

 The present article will review the evidence supporting that CB2 receptors might represent a key element in the endogenous response against different types of cytotoxic events, and that this receptor type may be a clinically promising target for the control of brain damage in neurodegenerative disorders.”

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Cannabinoids and neurodegenerative diseases.

“Although significant advances have taken place in recent years on our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of different neurodegenerative diseases, its translation into effective therapeutic treatments has not been as successful as could be expected. There is still a dramatic lack of curative treatments for the most frequent disorders and only symptomatic relief for many others. Under this perspective, the search for novel therapeutic approaches is demanding and significant attention and efforts have been directed to studying additional neurotransmission systems including the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The neuroprotective properties of exogenous as well as endogenous cannabinoids have been known for years and the underlying molecular mechanisms have been recently unveiled. As discussed later, antioxidative, antiglutamatergic and antiinflammatory effects are now recognized as derived from cannabinoid action and are known to be of common interest for many neurodegenerative processes.

 Thus, these characteristics make cannabinoids attractive candidates for the development of novel therapeutic strategies.

 The present review will focus on the existing data regarding the possible usefulness of cannabinoid agents for the treatment of relevant neurological pathologies for our society such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.”

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Cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids: role in neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders.


“The G-protein coupled receptors for Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol, the major psychoactive principle of marijuana, are known as cannabinoid receptors of type 1 (CB₁) and 2 (CB₂) and play important functions in degenerative and inflammatory disorders of the central nervous system. Whilst CB₁ receptors are mostly expressed in neurons, where they regulate neurotransmitter release and synaptic strength, CB₂ receptors are found mostly in glial cells and microglia, which become activated and over-express these receptors during disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotropic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s chorea. The neuromodulatory actions at CB₁ receptors by endogenous agonists (‘endocannabinoids’), of which anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol are the two most studied representatives, allows them to counteract the neurochemical unbalances arising during these disorders. In contrast, the immunomodulatory effects of these lipophilic mediators at CB₂ receptors regulate the activity and function of glia and microglia. Indeed, the level of expression of CB₁ and CB₂ receptors or of enzymes controlling endocannabinoid levels, and hence the concentrations of endocannabinoids, undergo time- and brain region-specific changes during neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory disorders, with the initial attempt to counteract excitotoxicity and inflammation. Here we discuss this plasticity of the endocannabinoid system during the aforementioned central nervous system disorders, as well as its dysregulation, both of which have opened the way to the use of either direct and indirect activators or blockers of CB₁ and CB₂ receptors for the treatment of the symptoms or progression of these diseases.”

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