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Special Issue "Endocannabinoid System in Health and Disease: Current Situation and Future Perspectives"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Rosaria Meccariello
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Movement and Wellness Sciences, Parthenope University of Naples, Via Medina 40, I-80133 Naples, Italy
Interests: endocannabinoid system; endocannabinoids–GnRH–steroids crosstalk; kisspeptins; reproduction; HPG axis; spermatogenesis; spermatozoa; endocrine disruptors; epigenetics
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) comprising cannabinoid receptors, their endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids), and synthetic and metabolizing enzymes triggered a large number of studies in cell lines, animal models, and humans. ECS modulates many physiological and pathological processes, both in the peripheral and central nervous systems and in peripheral organs. This signaling system has a recognized activity on nervous system development, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, neuroinflammation, pain and neurodegeneration, stress responsivity, mood and behavior, food intake and metabolism, reproduction, fertility and pregnancy, immune response, cardiac functions, cancer progression, and so much more. As a consequence, the modulation of ECS signaling has potential therapeutic applications for a broad range of diseases, including neurodegenerative, reproductive, cardiovascular, and inflammatory disorders, metabolic syndrome and obesity, and cancer, among many others. However, despite experimental evidence, molecular and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of ECS activity remain to be fully elucidated, hence the need to fill this gap in order to devise clinically successful treatment strategies.

This Special issue aims at expanding the current knowledge on ECS in both physiological and pathological conditions and on its possible therapeutic exploitation. Experimental studies in in vitro and in vivo models, review articles, and clinical studies as well are all welcome for consideration.

Dr. Rosaria Meccariello
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • endocannabinoids
  • endocannabinoids system
  • synaptic plasticity
  • neurological diseases
  • energy balance, food intake and metabolic disorders
  • reproduction, fertility and pregnancy
  • immune response
  • cardiac functions
  • stress
  • pain
  • cancer progression

Related Special Issues

Published Papers (15 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Endocannabinoid System in Health and Disease: Current Situation and Future Perspectives
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(10), 3549; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21103549 - 18 May 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 697
Abstract
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex signaling system that includes cannabinoid receptors, their endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids), and biosynthetic and hydrolytic enzymes [...] Full article

Research

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Open AccessArticle
The Cannabinoid Receptor CB1 Stabilizes Sperm Chromatin Condensation Status During Epididymal Transit by Promoting Disulphide Bond Formation
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(9), 3117; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21093117 - 28 Apr 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 627
Abstract
The cannabinoid receptor CB1 regulates differentiation of spermatids. We recently characterized spermatozoa from caput epididymis of CB1-knock-out mice and identified a considerable number of sperm cells with chromatin abnormality such as elevated histone content and poorly condensed chromatin. In this paper, we [...] Read more.
The cannabinoid receptor CB1 regulates differentiation of spermatids. We recently characterized spermatozoa from caput epididymis of CB1-knock-out mice and identified a considerable number of sperm cells with chromatin abnormality such as elevated histone content and poorly condensed chromatin. In this paper, we extended our findings and studied the role of CB1 in the epididymal phase of chromatin condensation of spermatozoa by analysis of spermatozoa from caput and cauda epididymis of wild-type and CB1-knock-out mouse in both a homozygous or heterozygous condition. Furthermore, we studied the impact of CB1-gene deletion on histone displacement mechanism by taking into account the hyperacetylation of histone H4 and players of displacement such as Chromodomain Y Like protein (CDYL) and Bromodomain testis-specific protein (BRDT). Our results show that CB1, via local and/or endocrine cell-to-cell signaling, modulates chromatin remodeling mechanisms that orchestrate a nuclear condensation extent of mature spermatozoa. We show that CB1-gene deletion affects the epididymal phase of chromatin condensation by interfering with inter-/intra-protamine disulphide bridges formation, and deranges the efficiency of histone removal by reducing the hyper-acetylation of histone H4. This effect is independent by gene expression of Cdyl and Brdt mRNA. Our results reveal a novel and important role for CB1 in sperm chromatin condensation mechanisms. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Interference with the Cannabinoid Receptor CB1R Results in Miswiring of GnRH3 and AgRP1 Axons in Zebrafish Embryos
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(1), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21010168 - 25 Dec 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1021
Abstract
The G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1R) and type 2 (CB2R), and their endocannabinoid (eCBs) ligands, have been implicated in several aspects of brain wiring during development. Here we aim to assess whether interfering with CB1R affects development, neuritogenesis and pathfinding of [...] Read more.
The G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1R) and type 2 (CB2R), and their endocannabinoid (eCBs) ligands, have been implicated in several aspects of brain wiring during development. Here we aim to assess whether interfering with CB1R affects development, neuritogenesis and pathfinding of GnRH and AgRP neurons, forebrain neurons that control respectively reproduction and appetite. We pharmacologically and genetically interfered with CB1R in zebrafish strains with fluorescently labeled GnRH3 and the AgRP1 neurons. By applying CB1R antagonists we observed a reduced number of GnRH3 neurons, fiber misrouting and altered fasciculation. Similar phenotypes were observed by CB1R knockdown. Interfering with CB1R also resulted in a reduced number, misrouting and poor fasciculation of the AgRP1 neuron’s axonal projections. Using a bioinformatic approach followed by qPCR validation, we have attempted to link CB1R functions with known guidance and fasciculation proteins. The search identified stathmin-2, a protein controlling microtubule dynamics, previously demonstrated to be coexpressed with CB1R and now shown to be downregulated upon interference with CB1R in zebrafish. Together, these results raise the likely possibility that embryonic exposure to low doses of CB1R-interfering compounds could impact on the development of the neuroendocrine systems controlling sexual maturation, reproduction and food intake. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Different Routes to Inhibit Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase: Do All Roads Lead to the Same Place?
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(18), 4503; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20184503 - 11 Sep 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 818
Abstract
There is robust evidence indicating that enhancing the endocannabinoid (eCB) tone has therapeutic potential in several brain disorders. The inhibition of eCBs degradation by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) blockade, is the best-known option to increase N-acyl-ethanolamines-(NAEs)-mediated signaling. Here, we investigated the [...] Read more.
There is robust evidence indicating that enhancing the endocannabinoid (eCB) tone has therapeutic potential in several brain disorders. The inhibition of eCBs degradation by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) blockade, is the best-known option to increase N-acyl-ethanolamines-(NAEs)-mediated signaling. Here, we investigated the hypothesis that intranasal delivery is an effective route for different FAAH inhibitors, such as URB597 and PF-04457845. URB597 and PF-04457845 were subchronically administered in C57BL/6 male mice every other day for 20 days for overall 10 drug treatment, and compared for their ability to inhibit FAAH activity by the way of three different routes of administration: intranasal (i.n.), intraperitoneal (i.p.) and oral (p.o.). Lastly, we compared the efficacy of the three routes in terms of URB597-induced increase of NAEs levels in liver and in different brain areas. Results: We show that PF-04457845 potently inhibits FAAH regardless the route selected, and that URB597 was less effective in the brain after p.o. administration while reached similar effects by i.n. and i.p. routes. Intranasal URB597 delivery always increased NAEs levels in brain areas, whereas a parallel increase was not observed in the liver. By showing the efficacy of intranasal FAAH inhibition, we provide evidence that nose-to-brain delivery is a suitable alternative to enhance brain eCB tone for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders and improve patients’ compliance. Full article
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Open AccessCommunication
Stable Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Cannabinoid Receptor CB2 Deficient Mice
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(15), 3759; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20153759 - 01 Aug 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1348
Abstract
The G-protein coupled cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) has been implicated in the regulation of adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The contribution of CB2 towards basal levels of proliferation and the number of neural progenitors in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the dentate gyrus, [...] Read more.
The G-protein coupled cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) has been implicated in the regulation of adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The contribution of CB2 towards basal levels of proliferation and the number of neural progenitors in the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the dentate gyrus, however, remain unclear. We stained hippocampal brain sections of 16- to 17-week-old wildtype and CB2-deficient mice, for neural progenitor and immature neuron markers doublecortin (DCX) and calretinin (CR) and for the proliferation marker Ki67 and quantified the number of positive cells in the SGZ. The quantification revealed that CB2 deficiency neither altered overall cell proliferation nor the size of the DCX+ or DCX and CR double-positive populations in the SGZ compared to control animals. The results indicate that CB2 might not contribute to basal levels of adult neurogenesis in four-month-old healthy mice. CB2 signaling might be more relevant in conditions where adult neurogenesis is dynamically regulated, such as neuroinflammation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Role of Major Endocannabinoid-Binding Receptors during Mouse Oocyte Maturation
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(12), 2866; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20122866 - 12 Jun 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1084
Abstract
Endocannabinoids are key-players of female fertility and potential biomarkers of reproductive dysfunctions. Here, we investigated localization and expression of cannabinoid receptor type-1 and -2 (CB1R and CB2R), G-protein coupled receptor 55 (GPR55), and transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 [...] Read more.
Endocannabinoids are key-players of female fertility and potential biomarkers of reproductive dysfunctions. Here, we investigated localization and expression of cannabinoid receptor type-1 and -2 (CB1R and CB2R), G-protein coupled receptor 55 (GPR55), and transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 channel (TRPV1) in mouse oocytes collected at different stages of in vivo meiotic maturation (germinal vesicle, GV; metaphase I, MI; metaphase II, MII) through qPCR, confocal imaging, and western blot. Despite the significant decrease in CB1R, CB2R, and GPR55 mRNAs occurring from GV to MII, CB2R and GPR55 protein contents increased during the same period. At GV, only CB1R was localized in oolemma, but it completely disappeared at MI. TRPV1 was always undetectable. When oocytes were in vitro matured with CB1R and CB2R but not GPR55 antagonists, a significant delay of GV breakdown occurred, sustained by elevated intraoocyte cAMP concentration. Although CBRs antagonists did not affect polar body I emission or chromosome alignment, GPR55 antagonist impaired in ~75% of oocytes the formation of normal-sized MI and MII spindles. These findings open a new avenue to interrogate oocyte pathophysiology and offer potentially new targets for the therapy of reproductive alterations. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Endocannabinoid-Mediated Neuromodulation in the Olfactory Bulb: Functional and Therapeutic Significance
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(8), 2850; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082850 - 19 Apr 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 845
Abstract
Endocannabinoid synthesis in the human body is naturally occurring and on-demand. It occurs in response to physiological and environmental stimuli, such as stress, anxiety, hunger, other factors negatively disrupting homeostasis, as well as the therapeutic use of the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol and recreational use [...] Read more.
Endocannabinoid synthesis in the human body is naturally occurring and on-demand. It occurs in response to physiological and environmental stimuli, such as stress, anxiety, hunger, other factors negatively disrupting homeostasis, as well as the therapeutic use of the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol and recreational use of exogenous cannabis, which can lead to cannabis use disorder. Together with their specific receptors CB1R and CB2R, endocannabinoids are major components of endocannabinoid-mediated neuromodulation in a rapid and sustained manner. Extensive research on endocannabinoid function and expression includes studies in limbic system structures such as the hippocampus and amygdala. The wide distribution of endocannabinoids, their on-demand synthesis at widely different sites, their co-existence in specific regions of the body, their quantitative differences in tissue type, and different pathological conditions indicate their diverse biological functions that utilize specific and overlapping pathways in multiple organ systems. Here, we review emerging evidence of these pathways with a special emphasis on the role of endocannabinoids in decelerating neurodegenerative pathology through neural networks initiated by cells in the main olfactory bulb. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Obesity Affects the Microbiota–Gut–Brain Axis and the Regulation Thereof by Endocannabinoids and Related Mediators
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1554; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051554 - 25 Feb 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2069
Abstract
The hypothalamus regulates energy homeostasis by integrating environmental and internal signals to produce behavioral responses to start or stop eating. Many satiation signals are mediated by microbiota-derived metabolites coming from the gastrointestinal tract and acting also in the brain through a complex bidirectional [...] Read more.
The hypothalamus regulates energy homeostasis by integrating environmental and internal signals to produce behavioral responses to start or stop eating. Many satiation signals are mediated by microbiota-derived metabolites coming from the gastrointestinal tract and acting also in the brain through a complex bidirectional communication system, the microbiota–gut–brain axis. In recent years, the intestinal microbiota has emerged as a critical regulator of hypothalamic appetite-related neuronal networks. Obesogenic high-fat diets (HFDs) enhance endocannabinoid levels, both in the brain and peripheral tissues. HFDs change the gut microbiota composition by altering the Firmicutes:Bacteroidetes ratio and causing endotoxemia mainly by rising the levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the most potent immunogenic component of Gram-negative bacteria. Endotoxemia induces the collapse of the gut and brain barriers, interleukin 1β (IL1β)- and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα)-mediated neuroinflammatory responses and gliosis, which alter the appetite-regulatory circuits of the brain mediobasal hypothalamic area delimited by the median eminence. This review summarizes the emerging state-of-the-art evidence on the function of the “expanded endocannabinoid (eCB) system” or endocannabinoidome at the crossroads between intestinal microbiota, gut-brain communication and host metabolism; and highlights the critical role of this intersection in the onset of obesity. Full article
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Open AccessReview
The Epigenetics of the Endocannabinoid System
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(3), 1113; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21031113 - 07 Feb 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 1705
Abstract
The endocannabinoid system (ES) is a cell-signalling system widely distributed in biological tissues that includes endogenous ligands, receptors, and biosynthetic and hydrolysing machineries. The impairment of the ES has been associated to several pathological conditions like behavioural, neurological, or metabolic disorders and infertility, [...] Read more.
The endocannabinoid system (ES) is a cell-signalling system widely distributed in biological tissues that includes endogenous ligands, receptors, and biosynthetic and hydrolysing machineries. The impairment of the ES has been associated to several pathological conditions like behavioural, neurological, or metabolic disorders and infertility, suggesting that the modulation of this system may be critical for the maintenance of health status and disease treatment. Lifestyle and environmental factors can exert long-term effects on gene expression without any change in the nucleotide sequence of DNA, affecting health maintenance and influencing both disease load and resistance. This potentially reversible “epigenetic” modulation of gene expression occurs through the chemical modification of DNA and histone protein tails or the specific production of regulatory non-coding RNA (ncRNA). Recent findings demonstrate the epigenetic modulation of the ES in biological tissues; in the same way, endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists induce widespread or gene-specific epigenetic changes with the possibility of trans-generational epigenetic inheritance in the offspring explained by the transmission of deregulated epigenetic marks in the gametes. Therefore, this review provides an update on the epigenetics of the ES, with particular attention on the emerging role in reproduction and fertility. Full article
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Open AccessReview
The Endocannabinoid System: A Target for Cancer Treatment
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(3), 747; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21030747 - 23 Jan 2020
Cited by 20 | Viewed by 2437
Abstract
In recent years, the endocannabinoid system has received great interest as a potential therapeutic target in numerous pathological conditions. Cannabinoids have shown an anticancer potential by modulating several pathways involved in cell growth, differentiation, migration, and angiogenesis. However, the therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids [...] Read more.
In recent years, the endocannabinoid system has received great interest as a potential therapeutic target in numerous pathological conditions. Cannabinoids have shown an anticancer potential by modulating several pathways involved in cell growth, differentiation, migration, and angiogenesis. However, the therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids is limited to the treatment of chemotherapy-induced symptoms or cancer pain, but their use as anticancer drugs in chemotherapeutic protocols requires further investigation. In this paper, we reviewed the role of cannabinoids in the modulation of signaling mechanisms implicated in tumor progression. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Cannabinoid Receptors Signaling in the Development, Epigenetics, and Tumours of Male Germ Cells
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21010025 - 18 Dec 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1463
Abstract
Endocannabinoids are natural lipid molecules whose levels are regulated by specific biosynthetic and degradative enzymes. They bind to and activate two main cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2), and together with their metabolizing enzymes form the [...] Read more.
Endocannabinoids are natural lipid molecules whose levels are regulated by specific biosynthetic and degradative enzymes. They bind to and activate two main cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2), and together with their metabolizing enzymes form the “endocannabinoid system” (ECS). In the last years, the relevance of endocannabinoids (eCBs) as critical modulators in various aspects of male reproduction has been pointed out. Mammalian male germ cells, from mitotic to haploid stage, have a complete ECS which is modulated during spermatogenesis. Compelling evidence indicate that in the testis an appropriate “eCBs tone”, associated to a balanced CB receptors signaling, is critical for spermatogenesis and for the formation of mature and fertilizing spermatozoa. Any alteration of this system negatively affects male reproduction, from germ cell differentiation to sperm functions, and might have also an impact on testicular tumours. Indeed, most of testicular tumours develop during early germ-cell development in which a maturation arrest is thought to be the first key event leading to malignant transformation. Considering the ever-growing number and complexity of the data on ECS, this review focuses on the role of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 signaling in male germ cells development from gonocyte up to mature spermatozoa and in the induction of epigenetic alterations in these cells which might be transmitted to the progeny. Furthermore, we present new evidence on their relevance in testicular cancer. Full article
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Open AccessReview
The Interplay between the Endocannabinoid System, Epilepsy and Cannabinoids
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(23), 6079; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20236079 - 02 Dec 2019
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2775
Abstract
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects approximately 50 million people worldwide. There is currently no definitive epilepsy cure. However, in recent years, medicinal cannabis has been successfully trialed as an effective treatment for managing epileptic symptoms, but whose mechanisms of action are [...] Read more.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects approximately 50 million people worldwide. There is currently no definitive epilepsy cure. However, in recent years, medicinal cannabis has been successfully trialed as an effective treatment for managing epileptic symptoms, but whose mechanisms of action are largely unknown. Lately, there has been a focus on neuroinflammation as an important factor in the pathology of many epileptic disorders. In this literature review, we consider the links that have been identified between epilepsy, neuroinflammation, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and how cannabinoids may be potent alternatives to more conventional pharmacological therapies. We review the research that demonstrates how the ECS can contribute to neuroinflammation, and could therefore be modulated by cannabinoids to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of seizures. In particular, the cannabinoid cannabidiol has been reported to have anti-convulsant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it shows promise for epilepsy treatment. There are a multitude of signaling pathways that involve endocannabinoids, eicosanoids, and associated receptors by which cannabinoids could potentially exert their therapeutic effects. Further research is needed to better characterize these pathways, and consequently improve the application and regulation of medicinal cannabis. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Cannabidiol—from Plant to Human Body: A Promising Bioactive Molecule with Multi-Target Effects in Cancer
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(23), 5905; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20235905 - 25 Nov 2019
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 4360
Abstract
Cannabis sativa L. is a plant long used for its textile fibers, seed oil, and oleoresin with medicinal and psychoactive properties. It is the main source of phytocannabinoids, with over 100 compounds detected so far. In recent years, a lot of attention has [...] Read more.
Cannabis sativa L. is a plant long used for its textile fibers, seed oil, and oleoresin with medicinal and psychoactive properties. It is the main source of phytocannabinoids, with over 100 compounds detected so far. In recent years, a lot of attention has been given to the main phytochemicals present in Cannabis sativa L., namely, cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Compared to THC, CBD has non-psychoactive effects, an advantage for clinical applications of anti-tumor benefits. The review is designed to provide an update regarding the multi-target effects of CBD in different types of cancer. The main focus is on the latest in vitro and in vivo studies that present data regarding the anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, cytotoxic, anti-invasive, anti-antiangiogenic, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties of CBD together with their mechanisms of action. The latest clinical evidence of the anticancer effects of CBD is also outlined. Moreover, the main aspects of the pharmacological and toxicological profiles are given. Full article
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Open AccessReview
The Endocannabinoid System in Pediatric Inflammatory and Immune Diseases
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(23), 5875; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20235875 - 23 Nov 2019
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1912 | Correction
Abstract
Endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors, their endogenous ligands, and the enzymes responsible for their synthesis and degradation. CB2, to a great extent, and CB1, to a lesser extent, are involved in regulating the immune [...] Read more.
Endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors, their endogenous ligands, and the enzymes responsible for their synthesis and degradation. CB2, to a great extent, and CB1, to a lesser extent, are involved in regulating the immune response. They also regulate the inflammatory processes by inhibiting pro-inflammatory mediator release and immune cell proliferation. This review provides an overview on the role of the endocannabinoid system with a major focus on cannabinoid receptors in the pathogenesis and onset of inflammatory and autoimmune pediatric diseases, such as immune thrombocytopenia, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, obesity, neuroinflammatory diseases, and type 1 diabetes mellitus. These disorders have a high social impact and represent a burden for the healthcare system, hence the importance of individuating more innovative and effective treatments. The endocannabinoid system could address this need, representing a possible new diagnostic marker and therapeutic target. Full article
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Open AccessCorrection
Correction: Argenziano, M., et al. The Endocannabinoid System in Pediatric Inflammatory and Immune Diseases. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 5875
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(8), 2757; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21082757 - 15 Apr 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 542
Abstract
The authors wish to make the following corrections to this paper [...] Full article
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