Targeting the Endocannabinoid System for Gastrointestinal Diseases: Future Therapeutic Strategies

Rudolf Schicho; Martin Storr

Disclosures

Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2010;3(2):193-207. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Cannabinoids extracted from the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa) and synthetic cannabinoids have numerous effects on gastrointestinal (GI) functions. Recent experimental data support an important role for cannabinoids in GI diseases. Genetic studies in humans have proven that defects in endocannabinoid metabolism underlie functional GI disorders. Mammalian cells have machinery, the so-called endocannabinoid system (ECS), to produce and metabolize their own cannabinoids in order to control homeostasis of the gut in a rapidly adapting manner. Pharmacological manipulation of the ECS by cannabinoids, or by drugs that raise the levels of endogenous cannabinoids, have shown beneficial effects on GI pathophysiology. This review gives an introduction into the functions of the ECS in the GI tract, highlights the role of the ECS in GI diseases and addresses its potential pharmacological exploitation.

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