Immune-Mediated Diseases

Volume 601 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 395-413

Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoid-Based Drugs

  • Thomas W. KleinAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Medicine, University of South Florida Email author 
  • , Catherine A. NewtonAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Medicine, University of South Florida

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Cannabinoid-based drugs modeled on cannabinoids originally isolated from marijuana are now known to significantly impact the functioning of the endocannabinoid system of mammals. This system operates not only in the brain but also in organs and tissues in the periphery including the immune system. Natural and synthetic cannabinoids are tricyclic terpenes, whereas the endogenous physiological ligands are eicosanoids. Several receptors for these compounds have been extensively described, CB1 and CB2, and are G protein-coupled receptors; however, cannabinoid-based drugs are also demonstrated to function independently of these receptors. Cannabinoids regulate many physiological functions and their impact on immunity is generally antiinflammatory as powerful modulators of the cytokine cascade. This anti-inflammatory potency has led to the testing of these drugs in chronic inflammatory laboratory paradigms and even in some human diseases. Psychoactive and nonpsychoactive cannabinoid- based drugs such as ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, HU-211, and ajulemic acid have been tested and found moderately effective in clinical trials of multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, arthritis, and neuropathic pain. Furthermore, although clinical trials are not yet reported, preclinical data with cannabinoid-based drugs suggest efficacy in other inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis.