Although the biology of cannabinoids and the variety of their central and peripheral actions have been studied for over half a century, these early findings have gone largely unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of physicians and scientists ( Fig. 1 ). In fact, the widespread medical and recreational use of marijuana throughout the ages was not sufficient to initiate careful and extensive research on cannabinoids until the last few decades of the twentieth century. Cannabinoid research received, however, a pivotal boost from the characterisation of the chemical structure of Δ 9 ‐tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9 ‐THC), the main psychoactive constituent of marijuana, the impulse is documented by the relevant increase of publications ( Fig. 1 ). However, it took many years more to expand our knowledge in understanding the marijuana’s mechanisms of action. Only after the cloning of the two receptor subtypes that are able to bind exogenous cannabinoids, named cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) and type 2 (CB2 receptor), respectively, and to the identification of their endogenous ligands, the endocannabinoids, the research in this field exploded ( Fig. 1 ). Cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids and the machinery for their synthesis and degradation represent the elements of an endogenous
Journal of Neuroendocrinology – Wiley
Published: May 1, 2008
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