Endocannabinoids and Neurodegenerative Disorders: Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Chorea, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Others

Javier Fernández-Ruiz - Julián Romero - and José A. Ramos

Abstract

This review focuses on the role of the endocannabinoid signaling system in controlling neuronal survival, an extremely important issue to be considered when developing new therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. First, we will describe the cellular and molecular mechanisms, and the signaling pathways, underlying these neuroprotective properties, including the control of glutamate homeostasis, calcium influx, the toxicity of reactive oxygen species, glial activation and other inflammatory events; and the induction of autophagy. We will then concentrate on the preclinical studies and the few clinical trials that have been carried out targeting endocannabinoid signaling in three important chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s chorea, and Alzheimer’s disease), as well as in other less well-studied disorders.

We will end by offering some ideas and proposals for future research that should be carried out to optimize endocannabinoid-based treatments for these disorders. Such studies will strengthen the possibility that these therapies will be investigated in the clinical scenario and licensed for their use in specific disorders.