Scientists unveil ‘Marijuana Receptor’ of Human Brain

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on October 26, 2016.

In a first of its kind, an international group of scientists have unveiled the structure of the cannabinoid receptor in the human brain. A team of scientists, led by co-author Dr. Raymond Stevens, have defined how THC and synthetic cannabinoid binds to receptors present on the nerve cells of the human brain.

The team of scientists includes Raymond C. Stevens, Prof of the University of Southern California; Laura Bohn, Prof. of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI); Alexandros Makriyannis, Prof. of Northeastern University; Zhi-Jie Liu, Prof. of iHuman Institute at Shanghai Tech University.

The research findings, published in the journal ‘Cell”, focused on how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- the chemical in marijuana that makes people “high” -- binds to a cannabinoid receptor known as CB1, which is embedded in the surface of many nerve cells.

"Researchers are fascinated by how you can make changes in THC or synthetic cannabinoids and have such different effects. Now that we finally have the structure of CB1, we can start to understand how these changes to the drug structure can affect the receptor", said Dr. Stevens.

Cannabinoid receptors are part of a large class of receptors known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), which account for about 40 percent of all prescription pharmaceuticals on the market, and play key roles in many physiological functions.

The researchers believe that the discovery will provide an essential tool for understanding why some molecules related to THC have unexpectedly complex and sometimes harmful side effects. It will also have the potential to guide drug design for pain, inflammation, obesity, fibrosis and other indications.

The recent findings could enhance the development of new marijuana-derived medications, as well as help to better understand the risks of marijuana use, claimed Dr. Stevens.

Notably, marijuana remains the most commonly used controversial drug in the United States, its legalization to use for both medicinal and recreational purposes is widening at the moment.

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