The cannabinoid system and immune modulation
Studies on the effects of marijuana smoking have evolved into the discovery and description of the endocannabinoid system. To date, this system is composed of two receptors, CB1 and CB2, and endogenous ligands including anandamide, 2-arachidonoyl glycerol, and others. CB1 receptors and ligands are found in the brain as well as immune and other peripheral tissues. Conversely, CB2 receptors and ligands are found primarily in the periphery, especially in immune cells. Cannabinoid receptors are G protein-coupled receptors, and they have been linked to signaling pathways and gene activities in common with this receptor family. In addition, cannabinoids have been shown to modulate a variety of immune cell functions in humans and animals and more recently, have been shown to modulate T helper cell development, chemotaxis, and tumor development. Many of these drug effects occur through cannabinoid receptor signaling mechanisms and the modulation of cytokines and other gene products. It appears the immunocannabinoid system is involved in regulating the brain-immune axis and might be exploited in future therapies for chronic diseases and immune deficiency.
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