Circulating Endocannabinoids and Mortality in Hemodialysis Patients

Am J Nephrol. 2020;51(2):86-95. doi: 10.1159/000505444. Epub 2020 Jan 14.


Background: Mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) on maintenance hemodialysis (MHD) remains exceptionally high. While traditional risk factors such as obesity are paradoxically associated with better survival, nontraditional risk factors including cachexia increase the likelihood of poor outcomes. There is accumulating evidence that the endocannabinoid (ECB) system plays a major role in energy preservation and storage, factors which can prevent the deleterious effects of cachexia. Hence, in this study, we evaluated the association of circulating ECB levels with mortality in MHD patients.

Methods: Serum concentrations of anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol (2-AG), major ECB ligands, were measured in MHD patients. Their correlation with various clinical/laboratory indices and association with 12-month all-cause mortality were examined.

Results: Serum 2-AG levels positively correlated with body mass index, serum triglycerides and body anthropometric measures. Meanwhile, serum AEA levels correlated positively with serum interleukin-6, and negatively with serum very low-density lipoprotein levels. While increased serum 2-AG levels were associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR] 0.52, 95% CI 0.28-0.98), there was no clear association between serum AEA levels and mortality (HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.48-1.72).

Conclusions: In MHD patients, the circulating levels of ECB ligand, 2-AG, may play an important role in determining body mass and risk of mortality. These observations were unique to 2-AG as similar findings were not obtained with serum AEA. Future studies need to investigate the mechanisms responsible for these associations and examine the modulation of the ECB system as a potential target for therapy in ESRD.

Keywords: Endocannabinoid; 2-arachidonoylglycerol; Anandamide; End stage renal disease; Endocannabinoid system; Hemodialysis; Mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arachidonic Acids / blood*
  • Correlation of Data
  • Endocannabinoids / blood*
  • Female
  • Glycerides / blood*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / blood*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis*


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Glycerides
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • glyceryl 2-arachidonate
  • anandamide