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Cannabinoids

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Since the discovery of an endogenous cannabinoid system, research into the pharmacology and therapeutic potential of cannabinoids has steadily increased. Two subtypes of G-protein coupled cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, have been cloned and several putative endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) have been detected during the past 15 years. The main endocannabinoids are arachidonoyl ethanolamide (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), derivatives of arachidonic acid, that are produced "on demand" by cleavage of membrane lipid precursors. Besides phytocannabinoids of the cannabis plant, modulators of the cannabinoid system comprise synthetic agonists and antagonists at the CB receptors and inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation. Cannabinoid receptors are distributed in the central nervous system and many peripheral tissues, including immune system, reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts, sympathetic ganglia, endocrine glands, arteries, lung and heart. There is evidence for some non-receptor dependent mechanisms of cannabinoids and for endocannabinoid effects mediated by vanilloid receptors.

Properties of CB receptor agonists that are of therapeutic interest include analgesia, muscle relaxation, immunosuppression, anti-inflammation, antiallergic effects, improvement of mood, stimulation of appetite, antiemesis, lowering of intraocular pressure, bronchodilation, neuroprotection and antineoplastic effects. The current main focus of clinical research is their efficacy in chronic pain and neurological disorders. CB receptor antagonists are under investigation for medical use in obesity and nicotine addiction. Additional potential was proposed for the treatment of alcohol and heroine dependency, schizophrenia, conditions with lowered blood pressure, Parkinson's disease and memory impairment in Alzheimer's disease.
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Keywords: cannabinoid receptor antagonists; cannabinoid receptors; cannabinoids; cannabis; endocannabinoids; side effects; thc; therapeutic potential

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Nova-Institut, Goldenbergstrabe 2, D-50354 Hürth, Germany.

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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