The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a very important system of receptors, agonists, and ligands that is one of the body’s main signalling and regulatory pathways. It is involved in many different tissues and processes, which are slowly being unravelled and studied.
Here, the authors and researchers decided to look at the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1) role in the immune system. CB1R’s sister receptor, CB2R, is highly expressed in the immune system and relatively well studied. CB1R is not, however.
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In order to study something, you have to be able to see it. These researchers developed a method of fluorescing a cannabinoid by attaching a molecule that will glow in the right conditions and bind to CB1R.
This allowed them, and will allow future researchers, to look at CB1R receptors in living things, and especially to study tissues like the tonsils and in the blood, where immune cell expression is very high.
Fluorescent probes have been used for some time to light up tissues and identify what is going on in them. For the first time, these researchers have found a way of effectively attaching a fluorescent probe to a cannabinoid that has a high affinity for CB1R. This means that when tissues are studied for their CB1R expression, a fluorescence cannabinoid can be administered, it will bind to CB1R and show whoever is looking down the microscope where they are.
The commonly accepted inflammation hypothesis links many common diseases and syndromes to dysregulated or malfunctioning immune system responses.CB2R is very common in the immune system, playing a crucial role in immune responses like
However, CB1R in the immune system is less well understood . Researchers have known they were there for a while but have found looking at them difficult. In order to address this, the immune system needs to be understood properly. Given the importance of CB2R and the known interactions of CB1R elsewhere, it looks like a very important place to be looking.
The tonsils have a very important role in the immune system. The preliminary evidence produced by this study suggests that Cb1R could be the most important cannabinoid receptor in the proliferation of T-cells, important immune cells while tuning down the inflammatory response.
This suggests a complex and important role for CB1R here and elsewhere in the immune system. Importantly, these results were produced from in vivo human samples. With the new fluorescing tools developed here, CB1R interactions should be much easier to study. The implications are striking:
A safe and effective tool for fluorescing, and therefore visualizing, CB1R receptors in the blood, tonsils, and presumably any other tissue, has been developed by this team of researchers. It has potential applications in studying the immune system and the endocannabinoid system, both of which are vital to health. As a therapeutic pathway, there are few more extensive or powerful.