Effects of Cannabinoids on the Immune System and Central Nervous System

Therapeutic Implications

Abstract

This review aims to improve understanding of the modulatory effects that cannabinoids exert on the immune system and CNS. Cannabinoids possess immunomodulatory activity, are neuroprotective in vivo and in vitro and can modify the production of inflammatory mediators, such as nitric oxide, prostanoids and cytokines, that are expressed by, and act on, the immune system and the brain. The mechanisms of cannabinoid actions are not fully understood, but appear to involve complex interactions between cannabinoid receptors and a number of signal transduction pathways. Endogenous cannabinoid ligands appear to act as local modulators of immune/inflammatory reactions.

Cannabinoid-induced immunosuppression may have implications for the treatment of neurological disorders that are associated with excess immunological activity, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. There is anecdotal evidence that cannabis use improves the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and studies with animal models are beginning to provide evidence for the mechanism of such effects. The development of nonpsychotropic cannabinoid analogues and modulators of the metabolism of endogenous cannabinoid ligands may lead to novel approaches to the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.

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Correspondence to Dr Francisco Molina-Holgado.

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Molina-Holgado, E., Guaza, C., Borrell, J. et al. Effects of Cannabinoids on the Immune System and Central Nervous System. BioDrugs 12, 317–326 (1999). https://doi.org/10.2165/00063030-199912050-00001

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Keywords

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Adis International Limited
  • Anandamide
  • Cannabinol
  • Dexanabinol