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Cannabinoids in Medicine

Cannabinoids exert widespread effects across multiple systems in the body, including the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a unique biological system formed by signalling receptors, their ligands, and enzymes involved in the synthesis, metabolism, and degradation of such ligands. ECS receptors are found in the brain and peripheral nervous system, but also in many other cells throughout the body. The most studied and prominent are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Like other biological systems, the ECS plays important roles in many physiological functions, including pain, mood, memory, sleep, appetite, and also the immune response to cancer and infective agents.

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the medical potential of phytocannabinoids and cannabinoid derivatives. Most, if not all, phytocannabinoids act on more receptors than just CB1 and CB2, for example transient receptor potential (TRP) channels and peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs). This makes the study of these compounds complex but the potential to treat a range of disease indications high.

Through medicinal chemistry and screening, cannabinoid derivatives and other new chemical entities can be designed to target single receptors. OCT461201, for example, is highly selective for CB2. Targeting CB2 has many benefits, including anti-neuroinflammatory and nociceptive properties, without any psychoactive side-effects.