Fighting intestinal infections with the body’s own endocannabinoids

The mammalian cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) sense endogenous endocannabinoids and plant and synthetic cannabinoids to engender a response in the host that leads to decreased inflammation, intestinal motility and secretion, and increased appetite. Mammalian endocannabinoids are also sensed by a bacterial cannabinoid receptor to decrease virulence of enteric pathogens. Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Endocannabinoids, signaling molecules produced in the body that share features with chemicals found in marijuana, can shut down genes needed for some pathogenic intestinal bacteria to colonize, multiply, and cause disease, new research led by UT Southwestern scientists shows.

The findings, published online today in Cell, could help explain why the cannabis plant—the most potent part of which is marijuana—can lessen the symptoms of various bowel conditions and may eventually lead to new ways to fight gastrointestinal infections.

Discovered in 1992, endocannabinoids are lipid-based…

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