The endocannabinoid system's discovery has created debate on its conclusions on human health. Because of its capability to target various therapeutic agents that are in different states of disease has piqued interest for researchers.
Some researchers suggest the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in cellular homeostasis. This could mean that the health of this system could affect the health of the whole body.
What is the endocannabinoid system and why is it important?
This article reviews the basics of the endocannabinoid system and its role in cardiovascular and neurological health and specifically, endocannabinoid system deficiency and the adverse effects on the other body's systems.
Endocannabinoid System & What It Consists Of
The endocannabinoid system is comprised of two receptors and a series of internally produced compounds. The two main receptors in the endocannabinoid system are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Endocannabinoid comes from the fact that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system. There are many endocannabinoids, the most widely known and studied is;
AEA increases in times of oxidative stress, inflammation or cell death. Researchers believe that it may be produced as a response to injury when counteracting inflammatory activity. This activity could be the evidence of the systems role in cellular homeostasis.
CB1 and CB2 receptors are found throughout the body. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the nervous system, while CB2 receptors are primarily found in intestinal epithelium cells and immune system cells.
CB1 receptors predominantly interact with THC and other psychoactive compounds from the cannabis plant. This is a logical find because the CB1 receptors are found primarily in the nervous system. This interaction of CB1 receptors and THC could cause certain changes in brain chemistry, which leads to the euphoric feeling produced from cannabis use.
CB2 receptors interact with cannabidiol (CBD) which is a secondary major compound in cannabis. This does not mean that CBD does not interact with CB1 receptors ever, but because these interactions are quite uncommon they are considered unimportant. Because CBD does not have compelling interaction with CB1 receptors, the psychoactive effects from THC are not present.
Both cannabinoid compounds have therapeutic potential. Studies have found these compounds help control chronic inflammation in conditions like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
THC use in modulating endocannabinoid system deficiency has been very limited because of its psychoactive properties. Because of this, THC has become rejected in many U.S. states, the U.S federal government, and in conservative countries around the world. Researchers refrain from investigating its therapeutic properties or recommending it, as an alternative medicine.
Cannabinoid Research Marches On Despite THC Affects
CBD contains the same therapeutic properties as THC, without the psychoactive effects. CBD is under extensive research, as a compound that can help with various diseases and their progression. This has led researchers to create synthetic compounds that mimic CBD and its interaction with CB2 receptors.
The endocannabinoid systems role in cardiovascular health and disease.
Depending on the receptors involved cardiovascular health, and the endocannabinoid system's activation could lead to beneficial or conflicting effects.
CB1 receptors have been linked to an increase of cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular incidents. Incidents include heart attack, atherosclerosis (plaque inside the blood vessels ), stroke, kidney dysfunction and liver problems. Animal models and epidemiological studies have shown these findings.
However, activation of the endocannabinoid system's CB2 receptors may have cardioprotective properties. Certain animal studies show how the use of synthetic cannabinoids interacting with CB2 receptors could beneficial for heart attacks. This comes from their ability to limit infiltration of cells that cause inflammation by CB2 activation.
The Clinical Significance
The difference between CBD and THC:
THC use, as a therapeutic agent could increase risk of cardiovascular incidents from interaction with CB1 receptors. But CBD also interacts with CB2 receptors and is possible that administration of CBD could lead to cardioprotective effects.
Adult neurogenesis, brain health and the endocannabinoid system
Various research reports show neural-progenitor cells produce endocannabinoids in time of injury and stress. This stimulates cell division in the brain, especially in areas like the hippocampus and sub-ventricles. This division is believed to be produced through interaction of endocannabinoids and CB1 receptors.
Other reports have shown CB1 deficient mice have a decreased ability in neural progenitor cell division when a nervous system injury occurs. This could mean CB1 deficient mice have less of a chance to recover from stroke or other type of brain injury compared to mice with CB1 at normal levels.
AEA, for example, induces astroglial proliferation in mice. Astroglia are star-shaped neurons thought to be extremely important for brain structure and protection. These are found in various areas like the blood brain barrier. Pharmacological stimulation of CB1 using synthetic cannabinoids has lead to neurogenesis or new growth of nervous tissue.
Can Synthetic Cannabinoids Be Beneficial For Brain Health
Synthetic cannabinoids could be beneficial not just for brain injuries, but could also be utilized as an antidepressant. The synthetic cannabinoid HU210 has been used for this purpose from its ability to modulate the endocannabinoid system and increase neural growth.
Recent studies show that CB1-deficient mice tend to suffer from early age related cognitive impairment or a noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, which include memory and thinking skills. This could be because CB1 deficient mice cannot regenerate cells in the nervous system, making them succumb faster to age related cellular death. But this is a perfect example of endocannabinoid system deficiencies, which could lead to detrimental effects in humans.