The endocannabinoid system and migraine.

Abstract: The recently discovered endocannabinoid system (ECS), which includes endocannabinoids and the proteins that metabolize and bind them, has been implicated in multiple regulatory functions both in health and disease. Several studies have suggested that ECS is centrally and peripherally involved in the processing of pain signals. This finding is corroborated by the evidence that endocannabinoids inhibit, through a cannabinoid type-1 receptor (CB1R)-dependent retrograde mechanism, the release of neurotransmitters controlling nociceptive inputs and that the levels of these lipids are high in those regions (such as sensory terminals, skin, dorsal root ganglia) known to be involved in transmission and modulation of pain signals. In this review we shall describe experimental and clinical data that, intriguingly, demonstrate the link between endocannabinoids and migraine, a neurovascular disorder characterized by recurrent episodic headaches and caused by abnormal processing of sensory information due to peripheral and/or central sensitization. Although the exact ECS-dependent mechanisms underlying migraine are not fully understood, the available results strongly suggest that activation of ECS could represent a promising therapeutical tool for reducing both the physiological and inflammatory components of pain that are likely involved in migraine attacks.

Link: US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

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