Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the CNS. Therapies that affect the endocannabinoid (EC) system may have immunomodulatory, symptomatic and neuroprotective effects.
Aim: The aim of this study was to determine how levels of EC and related compounds are altered in MS.
Methods: Plasma and whole blood were collected from 24 MS patients (10 relapsing-remitting (RR); 8 secondary-progressive (SP); 6 primary-progressive (PP); 19 females; 25-66 years) and 17 controls (10 females; 22-62 years). Plasma EC and related compounds were quantified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), cannabinoid receptors CB(1) and CB(2) mRNA were measured by quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction.
Results: Anandamide (AEA) and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) were higher in RRMS compared to controls (p=0.001 and p=0.027). AEA, PEA and oleoylethanolamide were also increased in SPMS plasma (p=0.001, p=0.004, and p=0.005). PPMS patients had higher AEA plasma levels compared to controls (p=0.009). FAAH mRNA was decreased in SPMS (p=0.04) but not in RRMS or PPMS blood. CB(1) (p=0.012) and CB(2) mRNA (p=0.003) were increased in the PPMS.
Conclusion: The EC system is altered in MS. It may be dynamically modulated depending on the subtype of the disease, but further studies with larger subgroups are needed to confirm this.