Endocannabinoids: Multi-scaled, Global Homeostatic Regulators of Cells and Society

  • Robert Melamede
Conference paper


Living systems are far from equilibrium open systems that exhibit many scales of emergent behavior. They may be abstractly viewed as a complex weave of dissipative structures that maintain organization by passing electrons from reduced hydrocarbons to oxygen. Free radicals are unavoidable byproducts of biological electron flow. Due to their highly reactive chemical properties, free radicals modify all classes of biological molecules (carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins). As a result, free radicals are destructive. The generally disruptive nature of free radicals makes them the “friction of life.” As such, they are believed to be the etiological agents behind age related illnesses such as cardiovascular, immunological, and neurological diseases, cancer, and ageing itself. Free radicals also play a critical constructive role in living systems. From a thermodynamic perspective, life can only exist if a living system takes in sufficient negative entropy from its environment to overcome the obligatory increase in entropy that would result if the system could not appropriately exchange mass, energy and information with its environment. Free radicals are generated in response to perturbations in the relationship between a living system and its environment. However, evolution has selected for biological response systems to free radicals so that the cellular biochemistry can adapt to environmental perturbations by modifying cellular gene expression and biochemistry. Endocannabinoids are marijuana-like compounds that have their origins hundreds of millions of years in the evolutionary past. They serve as fundamental modulators of energy homeostasis in all vertebrates. Their widespread biological activities may often be attributed to their ability to minimize the negative consequences of free radicals.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome Dissipative Structure Emergent Behavior Medicinal Cannabis Molecular Face 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Melamede
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ColoradoColorado Springs

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