ICRS 2018: Report from Leiden (Component two)


For the duration of the 1st week of July 2018, 5-hundred-and-thirty-5 delegates from 5 continents met at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands for the 28th annual symposium of the International Cannabinoid Analysis Society (ICRS). The 4-day conference showcased current scientific discoveries about cannabis elements and numerous strategies of targeting the endocannabinoid method to strengthen health outcomes.

Fatty acid binding proteins

For the duration of his Young Investigator Award Presentation, Stony Brook University scientist Martin Kaczocha discussed the function of fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) as essential elements of the endocannabinoid method. This is an emerging region of health-related science with thrilling prospects for pharmaceutical improvement. Kaczocha’s speak focused on preclinical investigations that underscored the prospective of targeting particular FABPs to treat discomfort, inflammation and prostate cancer.

Why are fatty acid binding proteins essential? Simply because fats and water do not mix effectively, and that implies endocannabinoids (eCBs) and other endogenous lipids have to rely on FABPs to get to exactly where they require to go.

FABPs are transport molecules – feel of them as a fleet of teleporting canoes – that shuttle eCBs by way of the cell membrane into the aqueous cytoplasmic interior. Inside the cell, eCBs act upon nuclear receptors, which regulate gene expression and mitochondria, ahead of they translocate to enzymes that metabolize eCBs into breakdown elements as component of the organic life cycle of these pivotal neurotransmitters.

In 2009, Stony Brook scientists, led by Dale Deutsch, identified many FABPs as “intracellular carriers” for the endocannabinoid anandamide. Six years later Deutsch and Koczocha scored yet another breakthrough when they reported that the exact same FABP transport molecules also serve as intracellular carriers for CBD and THC.

What takes place when plant cannabinoids like CBD and THC compete with endogenous cannabinoids for seats on the exact same FABP canoe? CBD and THC lessen eCB access to FABP transport molecules, which causes eCBs to stick about longer, resulting in an enhance in eCB levels in the brain.

In impact, CBD and THC function as endocannabinoid reuptake inhibitors that amplify cannabinoid receptor signaling by delaying eCB deactivation. Enhancing eCB tone through reuptake inhibition seems to be a important mechanism whereby plant cannabinoids confer neuroprotective effects and other health benefits.

Pharmaceutical researchers, meanwhile, are experimenting with synthetic compounds that delay eCB intracellular transport and reuptake. Healthcare scientists hope that by targeting particular fatty acid binding proteins, synthetic reuptake inhibitors will enhance eCB levels in a localized manner that causes clinically verifiable, eCB-induced protective effects.

CB1 antagonists 2.

Various posters and oral presentations at ICRS in Leiden addressed the therapeutic prospective of peripherally restricted CB1 receptor antagonists, which show guarantee in preclinical research for treating alcoholism, insulin resistance, and metabolic disorders.

1st identified in 1988, CB1 cannabinoid receptors are not only the most prevalent G-protein coupled receptors in the brain and central nervous method they are also expressed in peripheral organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart, bones, and gut.

CB1 receptors mediate the psychoactive effects of cannabis. When THC binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, it tends to make a particular person really feel higher. When THC binds to CB1 receptors outdoors the central nervous method, it confers non-psychoactive, anti-inflammatory effects.

CB1 receptors in the brain and gut play a essential function in regulating power metabolism by controlling meals intake. The notorious marijuana “munchies” are linked to CB1 receptor stimulation in the brain area that regulates hunger and satiety. If activated, these CB1 receptors induce appetite if blocked, they reduce it.

The French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis was the 1st to market place a synthetic CB1 antagonist as an appetite suppressant below the trade name Rimonabant in 2006. But the significantly-hyped blockbuster diet plan pill proved to be a blunt instrument, and the drug was quickly pulled from European circulation mainly because of extreme side effects – anxiousness, nausea, vomiting, seizures, sleep issues, headaches, improved blood stress, mood swings, depression, and heightened threat of suicide. Blocking CB1 receptor signaling in the brain to shed a handful of pounds brought on the exact same adverse neurological situations that CB1 activity commonly protects against — the exact same health-related situations for which cannabis provides relief.

Massive Pharma’s initial foray into cannabinoid antagonists failed miserably. But the notion of modulating the endocannabinoid method without the need of causing a higher would reside on as an idee fixe amongst drug firm researchers. Now, a dozen years soon after the Rimonabant debacle, health-related scientists are taking yet another appear at CB1 receptor antagonists – from a different perspective.

Rather of targeting CB1 receptors in the brain, the present emphasis is on selectively blocking only CB1 receptors outdoors the central nervous method. Drug developers, accordingly, have invented a new generation of experimental CB1 antagonists that do not cross the blood-brain barrier.

Whereas CB1 receptor antagonism in the brain produces detrimental neurological outcomes, CB1 inhibition in peripheral organs has shown therapeutic prospective in numerous animal models. A group of scientists at National Institutes of Overall health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, reported that CB1 receptor antagonism enhances insulin sensitivity in pancreas and liver cells and delays age-connected muscle loss.

A different NIH study at ICRS 2018 located that a peripheral CB1 blockade may possibly have therapeutic possibilities for treating alcoholism. And according to researchers at RTI International in North Carolina, CB1 receptor antagonists that lack central nervous method penetration need to also be regarded worthy drug improvement candidates for liver disorders.

But issues inevitably arise when selectively targeting a cannabinoid receptor subtype and treating it as an on/off switch. There may possibly be much better complete plant options.

Metabolic tune-up

In vitro research indicate that cannabidiol functions as a damaging allosteric modulator at the CB1 receptor, which means that CBD antagonizes or inhibits CB1 receptor signaling without the need of completely blocking it. In other words, if the CB1 receptor functions as a dimmer switch, CBD turns it down but not all the way.

At the exact same time, CBD augments CB2 receptor signaling, which regulates inflammation and immune cell activity. How and why CBD, a potent anti-inflammatory, acts like a CB2 agonist without the need of straight binding to the CB2 receptor is nonetheless somewhat of a scientific mystery.[1] 

But this significantly is evident: CBD can fine-tune metabolism by differentially modulating CB1 and CB2 receptor activity, down-regulating the former even though boosting the latter. Each sorts of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are expressed in peripheral organs, exactly where they may possibly mediate opposing functions. Activating CB1, for instance, has a pro-fibrogenic impact in the liver and kidneys activating CB2 has the opposite impact, reducing fibrosis.

Fatty liver, diabetes, heart illness, obesity, and other diet plan-connected metabolic issues are linked with overactive CB1 receptor signaling and inadequate CB2 stimulation. Provided that CBD differentially inhibits CB1 and amplifies CB2, cannabidiol seems to be especially effectively-suited for treating life style and diet plan-induced illnesses that are endemic in Western societies.

Various other plant cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), the unheated, non-intoxicating version of THC, also show guarantee as metabolic modulators. Spanish scientists reported on the impact of THCA in an animal model of metabolic syndrome. Day-to-day administration of pure THCA (20 mg/kg) for three weeks resulted in “a substantial reduction of fat mass and physique weight gain” in mice fed a higher fat diet plan. THCA also substantially ameliorated “glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.” These well being-constructive outcomes have been attributed to THCA’s activation of PPAR-gamma, a receptor on the surface of the cell’s nucleus, which regulates power homeostasis, mitochondria, and gene expression connected to adipose tissue (physique fat) accumulation. CBD also activates PPAR-gamma.

Meals as medicine


Western diet plan and a sedentary life style are important threat components for creating metabolic syndrome (characterized by higher blood stress, higher blood sugar, bulging waistlines). It is currently a enormous public well being crisis: 34 % of American adults meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome, like 52 % of Americans 60 years and older. Various ICRS presentations examined non-pharmacological approaches – like physical exercise and nutritional intervention – that treat prevalent metabolic issues by targeting the endocannabinoid system.

The therapeutic effects of typical moderate physical exercise (weight loss, enhanced mood, and additional) may possibly involve modifications in the basal tone of peripheral eCB signaling, according to Brazilian scientists at the Federal University of San Paulo. Basically place, physical exercise improves endocannabinoid tone. So does a healthier diet plan – low on sugar and carbs, wealthy in leafy greens, polyphenols, probiotics, necessary fatty acids, and higher fiber foods.

Wageningen University in the Netherlands has been at the forefront of researching how omega-three polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) influence the endocannabinoid method. Omega-three dietary deficiency depletes eCB tone, impedes eCB-mediated neuronal functions, and is linked to the onset of neuropsychiatric illnesses. But this deficiency can be mitigated by fish oil-derived PUFAs – such as DHEA and DHA-five-HT – which are recognized to have anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular positive aspects. Dutch researchers reported that these fish oil compounds assist to attenuate tumor development in animal models of cancer. An omega-three PUFA-enriched diet plan favorably modulates eCB signaling during obesity.

Francesca Guida, a University of Naples scientist, discussed how Vitamin D deficiency “can lead to selective alterations in endocannabinoid signaling” that contribute to discomfort improvement and hypersensitivity. In addition, according to Guida and her colleagues, “altered Vitamin D status is accountable for deep modifications in microbiota composition.” Gut microbiota modulate intestinal eCB tone, and modifications in Vitamin D levels “induce modifications in composition and functions of the intestinal bacterial community” that impacts microbe-host interactions.

Gut dysbiosis is implicated in many illnesses, like obesity, variety-two diabetes, and depression. Fermented foods market healthier gut flora that balance endocannabinoid tone. Endocannabinoid signaling at CB1 receptors in the gut regulates feeding behavior. University of California scientists in Riverside report that overeating linked with diet plan-induced obesity is driven by dysregulated gut-brain eCB signaling. The interaction among gut microbiota and the endocannabinoid method is an up-and-coming region of analysis with vast implications for health-related science and patient care.

Looking ahead

Subsequent summer time the ICRS conference will be hosted by the National Institutes of Overall health in Bethesda, Maryland. The selected venue for ICRS 2019 is a important acknowledgement by the U.S. government of the value of this burgeoning field of study. It is also a belated honor for the neighborhood of scientific pioneers who found the endocannabinoid method and who continue to unravel its mysteries.

Study component 1 of this two-component series – ICRS 2018: CBD Shines in Leiden

Project CBD director Martin A. Lee is the author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Healthcare, Recreational and Scientific.


1. Why are CBD’s effects related to these of CB2 activation? It may possibly have a thing to do with CBD’s function as an antagonist at GPR55, a so-named orphan receptor, that signals inversely in relation to CB2. (CB2 is anti-inflammatory GPR55 is pro-inflammatory.) Blocking GPR55 is 1 of many strategies that CBD modulates inflammation. CBD can inhibit the reuptake of endocannabinoids and this may possibly outcome in eCB-induced protective effects through heightened CB2 receptor transmission. Allosteric modulation of the the CB2 receptor could be a aspect, as effectively. And scientists are also debating the function of receptor dimerization, whereby two receptors entangle, forming as novel signaling unit. Even though CBD does not straight activate the CB2 cannabinoid receptor, CBD is a potent activator of the five-HT1A serotonin receptor. Some researchers speculate that CBD functions like a CB2 agonist without the need of becoming 1 mainly because CB2 receptors “dimerize” with five-HT1A receptors.


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