Targeting the endocannabinoid system in treating brain disorders.Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2006 Apr; 15(4):351-65.EO
Recent cannabinoid research has a primary focus on developing therapeutics against human diseases. Many studies on cannabinoids indicate important progress for protection against several neurodegenerative disorders. Agonists of cannabinoid receptors activate signalling pathways in the brain that are linked to neuronal repair and cell maintenance, and endogenous ligands can also activate neuroprotective responses. These endocannabinoids are bioactive fatty acid amides and esters that are synthesised in the brain and include arachidonoyl ethanolamide (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol. Endocannabinoids are released in response to pathogenic events, thus representing a potential compensatory repair mechanism. Enhancing this on-demand action of endocannabinoids is a strategy with which to promote endogenous repair signalling. For such enhancement, considerable work has gone into modulating the availability of endocannabinoids by blocking the processes of their deactivation. The targets include the anandamide-hydrolysing enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase, the carrier-mediated anandamide transport system and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol-deactivating enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase. The activity of endocannabinoids is terminated through transport and degradation and, accordingly, selective inhibitors of these processes effectively exploit the protective nature of cannabinergic responses. This review highlights recent studies implicating the endocannabinoid system in neuroprotection against different disorders of the CNS.