Traumatic brain injury (TBI) leads to numerous problems, including alcoholism and suicide. New findings indicate that endocannabinoids aid TBI recovery: When researchers boosted 2-AG levels shortly after injury, rats displayed less anxiety and less interest in alcohol. This is significant since alcoholism is a serious comorbidity of brain injury. The researchers link the protective effect of 2-AG to changes in glutamate transmission in the central amygdala, the part of the brain that processes traumatic and fearful memories. Other preclinical research has demonstrated that endocannabinoids can play a protective role after traumatic brain injuries, like concussion, by ameliorating glutamatergic toxicity.
Across political boundaries, a group of scientists from Russia, China, and the USA crystallized the CB2 cannabinoid receptor. This is a major achievement that will deepen our understanding of how CB2 works at a chemical level, even though X-rays of the crystal don’t provide a perfect representation of CB2 as it exists in the body. Many of these scientists were also involved in crystallizing the other main cannabinoid receptor, CB1, in 2016. These developments are also a major help to those trying to design new drugs targeting cannabinoid receptors. To get a better sense of what “understanding” the chemical structure of the CB2 entails, see these articles on A lipid pathway for ligand binding is necessary for a cannabinoid G protein-coupled receptor and Structure-kinetic relationship studies of cannabinoid CB2 receptor agonists reveal substituent-specific lipophilic effects on residence time.