Over the past 10 years, there has been large expansions of public awareness and allocated funding for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is categorized under a sub-type of neurodevelopmental disorders. The sub-type is known as pervasive developmental disorders. Pervasive developmental disorders have three defining features. The characteristics are:
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As of now, there are no pharmacological treatments for the symptoms of ASD. However, we now know oxytocin and vasopressin act as critical regulators of social cognition and behaviors. Some clinical trials have now provided promising evidence for oxytocin-based therapies in ASD.
Giving oxytocin to patients with ASD has aided in alleviating key symptoms. Effects include better abilities in:
Oxytocin and vasopressin are proudly different in how they affect hormonal activity in the periphery. A plethora of evidence has shown these two agents act on similar substates in the central nervous system (CNS). This allows for bodily regulation of ASD related behaviors. These agents act on four G-Protein coupled receptors. There is 1 oxytocin receptor and 3 vasopressin receptors (V1a, V2, V1b).
New data suggests transient receptor potential V2 (TRPV2) protein may play a role in mediating production of oxytocin and vasopressin.
In one study, they were able to identify and characterize many cannabinoid TRPV2 agonists in cultured rat dorsal ganglion neurons. Among the cannabinoids, Cannabidiol (CBD) proved to be most potent in its TRPV2 activation. It was followed in efficacy by Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabinol (CBN).
Cannabinoids, in this case referencing phytocannabinoids, are agents that word on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). THC and CBD are phytocannabinoids. The ECS is bodily system able to regulation pain, inflammation, neurological activity and oversees general bodily homeostasis. Like the cannabis plant, our body also makes our own naturally produced cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. There are also synthetic cannabinoids that are chemically engineered to mimic other cannabinoids. They all act on the ECS.
According to the results of the study, cannabinoids have may have the ability to increase the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. They’re able to do this due to their role as TRPV2 agonists. This allows cannabinoids to ultimately enhance stimulation of the oxytocin receptor and the V1a receptor.