Studying Cannabinoids For Clues to Its Efficacy

Results of new research reported last month in the journal Cell provide new insights into the cannabinoid system and the mechanism by which it is modulated by the psychoactive compounds present in cannabis. By identifying the crystal structure of the cannabinoid receptor (CB1), the authors assert that their work will advance the treatment of various pain conditions. CB1 is activated by endocannabinoids and by delta9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (TCH) and studies have shown that this activation induces analgesia. This analgesia take place along peripheral, spinal, and supraspinal pathways where the CB1 receptor is expressed. In this study, the researchers examined the crystal structure to better determine the properties that enable CB1 activation.

As CB1 is known to modulate pain transmission in a variety of ways, it presents as an attractive target for the design of pharmacologic agents for pain management. Understanding the crystal structure of the receptor may permit the development of compounds that bind to it with greater specificity and selectivity, thereby avoiding adverse effects from their use. The authors state that, “Going forward, the study of cannabinoids present in Cannabis sativa will provide clues to its high efficacy and safety margins and may continue to inspire a rich source of pharmacologically refined compounds and novel therapeutics.”

A news story about the discovery and implications may be read here.

The article abstract may be read here.

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