Neuroprotective agents: cannabinoids

Clin Immunol. 2012 Jan;142(1):57-67. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2011.02.010. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


Chronic inflammation and neurodegeneration are the main pathological traits of multiple sclerosis that coexist in all stages of the disease course, with complex and still nonclarified relationships. Currently licensed medications have efficacy to control aspects related to inflammation, but have been unable to modify pure progression. Experimental work has provided robust evidence of the immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties that cannabinoids exert in animal models of multiple sclerosis. Through activation of the CB2 receptor, cannabinoids modulate peripheral blood lymphocytes, interfere with migration across the blood-brain barrier and control microglial/macrophage activation. CB1 receptors present in neural cells have a fundamental role in direct neuroprotection against several insults, mainly excitotoxicity. In multiple sclerosis, several reports have documented the disturbance of the endocannabinoid system. Considering the actions demonstrated experimentally, cannabinoids might be promising agents to target the main aspects of the human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / immunology
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation / immunology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / immunology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / immunology
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism


  • Cannabinoids
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid