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Cannabinoids: Between Neuroprotection and Neurotoxicity

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Cannabinoids, such as the Δ9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), present in the cannabis plant, as well as anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol, produced by the mammalian body, have been shown to protect the brain from various insults and to improve several neurodegenerative diseases. The current review summarizes the evidence for cannabinoid neuroprotection in vivo, and refers to recent in vitro studies, which help elucidate possible molecular mechanisms underlying this protective effect. Some of these mechanisms involve the activation of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, while others are not dependent on them. In some cases, protection is due to a direct effect of the cannabinoids on neuronal cells, while in others, it results from their effects on non-neuronal elements within the brain. In many experimental set-ups, cannabinoid neurotoxicity, particularly by THC, resides side by side with neuroprotection. The current review attempts to shed light on this dual activity, and to dissociate between the two contradictory effects.
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Keywords: ANANDAMIDE; Alzheimer's Disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Parkinson's Disease; anti-oxidative action; glutamatergic synaptic transmission; ischemia; neuroinflammation; neuronal damage

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Muerberger Chair in Neuropharmacology, Depatrment of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel.

Publication date: 01 December 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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