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The Role of Cannabinoid Receptor 2 in Inflammatory Responses Triggered by Alpha-synuclein

Study Rationale:
There is growing interest in the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis-related compounds as a potential therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Cannabis, or marijuana, acts on cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, including the type 2 receptor (CB2). This receptor is thought to be largely responsible for cannabis' effects on inflammation due to their presence on immune cells found in both the peripheral nervous system and the brain. The peripheral nervous system includes all of the nerves that branch out from the brain and spinal cord and extend to other parts of the body including muscles and organs.

Levels of CB2 receptors are increased in the brain of people with Parkinson's; however the exact role of CB2 in Parkinson's is not clear. This project aims to investigate how targeting CB2 alters the behavior of immune cells involved in aggregation, or clumping, of the protein alpha-synuclein.

The investigators believe CB2 may regulate communication between immune cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems to alter the alpha-synuclein-induced inflammatory environment.

Study Design:
We will use immune cells in the central nervous system called microglia isolated from models. We will challenge these cells with forms of alpha-synuclein that known to promote inflammation and evaluate how treatment with CB2-acting compounds alters microglial function. Our goal is to identify CB2 treatments that promote a wound-healing immune environment and then test them in a model of Parkinson's to determine the effects of CB2 modulation on immune cells that are directly interacting with alpha-synuclein clumps.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
Understanding how CB2 regulates the behavior of immune cells and the communication between those circulating and resident in the brain could elucidate new treatments for Parkinson's.

Next Steps for Development:
If successful, this study will provide evidence for CB2-targeted therapies as a treatment for Parkinson's.


  • Valerie Joers, PhD

    Gainesville, FL United States

  • Malú G. Tansey, PhD

    Gainesville, FL United States

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