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

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Science's STKE  08 Nov 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 309, pp. pe51
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3092005pe51

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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 Δ9-tetrahydocannabinol (Δ9-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.

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