Cannabinoid system as a potential target for drug development in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.Curr Vasc Pharmacol 2003; 1(3):301-13CV
Although cannabinoids have been recreationally employed for thousands of years, it was not until the discovery of their specific receptors, in the early nineties, that the molecular basis of cannabinoid activity have began to be understood. Growing research in this field has demonstrated not only that the action of cannabinoids in mammals is mainly receptor-mediated, but also that endogenous cannabinoids, such as anandamide, are produced, metabolized, and taken up across the cell membrane through a facilitated uptake process. The exogenous administration of cannabinoids, as well as the manipulation of their endogenous levels have been related to a variety of effects, such as analgesia, impairment of cognition and learning, appetite enhancement and peripheral vasodilation. Hence, the endocannabinoid system, including the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the metabolizing enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase and the anandamide transporter, is a potential target for the development of novel therapeutic drugs in the treatment of various conditions, such as pain, feeding disorders and vascular disease among others. Although most of the research in the field of cannabinoids has been focused on their effects in the central nervous system, a growing line of evidence indicates that cannabinoids can also play a major role in the control of physiopathological functions in the cardiovascular system. In this context, endocannabinoids have been proposed as novel possible hypotensive agents, and have been involved in the hypotension observed in septic shock, acute myocardial infarction and cirrhosis. In addition, a protective role for endocannabinoids has been described in ischemia.