Endocannabinoids: new targets for drug development
Di Marzo, Bisogno T, De Petrocellis L
Istituto per la Chimica di Molecole di Interesse Biologico,
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche,
Via Toiano 6, 80072,
Arco Felice, Napoli, Italy.
Curr Pharm Des 2000 Sep; 6(13):1361-80


The possible therapeutic use of marijuanas active principles, the cannabinoids, is currently being debated. It is now known that these substances exert several of their pharmacological actions by activating specific cell membrane receptors, the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor subtypes. This knowledge led to the design of synthetic cannabinoid agonists and antagonists with high therapeutic potential. The recent discovery of the endocannabinoids, i.e. endogenous metabolites capable of activating the cannabinoid receptors, and the understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to their biosynthesis and inactivation, opened a new era in research on the pharmaceutical applications of cannabinoids. Ongoing studies on the pathological and physiological conditions regulating the tissue levels of endocannabinoids, and on the pharmacological activity of these compounds and their derivatives, may provide a lead for the development of new drugs for the treatment of nervous and immune disorders, cardiovascular diseases, pain, inflammation and cancer. These studies are reviewed in this article with special emphasis on the chemical features that determine the interaction of endocannabinoids with the proteins mediating their activity and degradation.

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