For the first time, we can visualize how cannabinoids fit like puzzle pieces, into the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in our brains.
This exciting news was reveled in a paper published in Cell and openly available titled: “Crystal Structure of the Human Cannabinoid Receptor CB1.”
From the paper itself:
“In combination with functional studies and molecular modeling, the structure provides insight into the binding mode of naturally occurring CB1 ligands, such as THC, and synthetic cannabinoids. This enhances our understanding of the molecular basis for the physiological functions of CB1 and provides new opportunities for the design of next-generation CB1-targeting pharmaceuticals.”
There are at least 113 known cannabinoids. Some of them are produced in our own brains like anandamide. While others like THC, are produced in plants. The CB1 and CB2 receptors in our bodies are responsible for regulating a whole host of things like pain, mood, appetite, and more. Being able to further understand how they work and interact with various cannabinoids will pave the way for novel and new treatments that interact with those receptors.
Researching new ways to interact with the CB1 receptor is exciting, but revealing the mechanisms more thoroughly are also helpful for a current public safety problem of synthetic cannabinoids. We still don’t understand why some synthetic cannabinoids like JWH-018 can cause extremely violent, dangerous, and sometimes deadly results while others like THC are quite safe with no overdoses recorded.
Cannabinoid receptors are part of a class of receptors in our brain known as G protein-coupled receptors (CPCR). The CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most abundant of these receptors in the human body. Most of the best-selling drugs on the market target GPCR and estimates of 40-50% of all pharmaceuticals target them as well. Increasing our understanding of this most abundant and important receptor in our brains is an exciting field with more benefits clearly on the horizon.