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Sci. STKE, 8 November 2005
Vol. 2005, Issue 309, p. pe51
[DOI: 10.1126/stke.3092005pe51]

PERSPECTIVES

Endocannabinoid Identification in the Brain: Studies of Breakdown Lead to Breakthrough, and There May Be NO Hope

Bradley E. Alger*

Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry, Program in Neuroscience, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.

Abstract: Endocannabinoids are a class of fatty acid derivatives defined by their ability to interact with the specific cannabinoid receptors that were originally identified as the targets of {Delta}9-tetrahydocannabinol ({Delta}9-THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. Endocannabinoids have been implicated in a growing number of important physiological and behavioral events. A full understanding of the functions of endocannabinoids will involve knowing which ones are active, and how they are produced, during any given physical event. However, studying these small lipids in the brain presents many technical challenges. New selective pharmacological tools promise to be very useful in unraveling the complexities of endocannabinoid signaling, but parallel developments from the investigation of the cellular neurophysiology of the endocannabinoid systems highlight the difficulties remaining.

*Contact information. Telephone, 410-706-3350; fax, 410-706-8341; e-mail, balger{at}umaryland.edu

Citation: B. E. Alger, Endocannabinoid Identification in the Brain: Studies of Breakdown Lead to Breakthrough, and There May Be NO Hope. Sci. STKE 2005, pe51 (2005).

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