The Endocannabinoid System and Its Therapeutic Potential

Issue: 
2021
Institution: 
The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, 23185

The endocannabinoid system is a popular topic in regards to creating therapeutics for a multitude of nervous system disorders. The endocannabinoid system, a naturally occurring system in the human body, plays a key role in neuromodulation of the body’s nervous system. It is believed that dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system may lead to the pathogenesis of nervous system disorders. Alternatively, exploitation of this system may pose therapeutic benefits for individuals who have certain disorders. CB2 receptors have been implicated in both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. CB2 receptors on microglia in the substantia nigra and striatum have been implicated in neuroprotection via anti-inflammatory processes, suggesting a role in Parkinson’s Disease. Aβ plaque deposition, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease, has also been shown to be related to cannabinoid CB2 receptors in the central nervous system. However, CB2 receptors were not shown to be involved in tau hyperphosphorylation along with Aβ plaque deposition, suggesting that focusing on the endocannabinoid system may not be best for development of a therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Disease. The widespread neuromodulatory role of the endocannabinoid system has shown promise in acute and chronic pain regulation, but the presence of cannabinoid receptors on both excitatory and inhibitory neurons demonstrates a need for further research that is more directed towards specific receptors. Lastly, the endocannabinoid system has shown promising anxiolytic effects even though the mechanism of anxiety is still not fully understood. Overall, recent literature has shown promise for endocannabinoid-related therapeutic targets in many disorders, but further investigations are necessary.

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