The endocannabinoid system and its therapeutic exploitation in multiple sclerosis: Clues for other neuroinflammatory diseases
Multiple sclerosis is the most common inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, caused by an autoimmune response against myelin that eventually leads to progressive neurodegeneration and disability. Although the knowledge on its underlying neurobiological mechanisms has considerably improved, there is a still unmet need for new treatment options, especially for the progressive forms of the disease. Both preclinical and clinical data suggest that cannabinoids, derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, may be used to control symptoms such as spasticity and chronic pain, whereas only preclinical data indicate that these compounds and their endogenous counterparts, i.e. the endocannabinoids, may also exert neuroprotective effects and slow down disease progression. Here, we review the preclinical and clinical studies that could explain the therapeutic action of cannabinoid-based medicines, as well as the medical potential of modulating endocannabinoid signaling in multiple sclerosis, with a link to other neuroinflammatory disorders that share common hallmarks and pathogenetic features.