The central nervous system (CNS) is the complex collection of nerve tissues that controls the activities of the body, comprising the brain and spinal cord. Disorders of the CNS include a broad category of conditions in which the brain does not function as it should, limiting health and the ability to function. These disorders may be the result of damage from an infection, inherited metabolic disorders, a degenerative condition, stroke, brain tumor, or arise from multiple unknown factors.
Most CNS disorders cannot be cured, and many have associated comorbidities. Symptoms can put a severe strain on the quality of life, interfering with everyday activities and functioning; they can be embarrassing, and in more extreme cases, debilitating. The best option for most patients is to control or limit the impact of the disease through a range of therapies from medical to surgical treatment.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a neurotransmitter network tasked with maintaining homeostasis throughout the body. Essentially a biochemical communication system, the ECS comprises endogenous cannabinoids and receptors. These endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, are produced by multiple cell types within the CNS.
The main ECS receptors — CB1 and CB2 — are located throughout the body; CB1 primarily within brain cells and CB2 across the CNS. These receptors have been implicated in the modulation of neuroinflammatory, neurodegenerative and psychiatric conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, anxiety and depression.
Because the ECS acts with such precision, its interconnection with the CNS makes modulation of the ECS a therapeutic target for treating disorders of the CNS. And because cannabinoids, whether endogenous, plant based, or synthetic, impact the ECS equally, they are an obvious target for our continuing research and drug development efforts.