The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a biological system that consists of endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors) and cannabinoid receptor proteins that can be found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. The system is known to regulate numerous nervous, cardiovascular and immune system functions inside of cells. It is also known to harmonise immune cell maturation in primary lymphatic tissues, along with their antibody effector function, for example, the secretion of cytokine (small proteins that are important in cell signalling).
The ECS is extensively exhibited throughout the human body, this includes several components of the body’s immune system, both innate and adaptive. Within these innate and adaptive components of the immune system, endocannabinoids can profoundly affect immune functions through managing inflammation, antitumor, autoimmunity, and anti-pathogen immune response. The ECS is commonly thought to be the homeostatic “guard” of the immune system, this includes hindering any onset of pathological or overpowering proinflammatory responses. Some authors of scientific publications believe that both the immune system and ECS are so closely linked that they refer to an “immuno-cannabinoid system”.
The cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 make up the ECS within a cell, and the stimulation of these receptors is critical for several physiological processes that manage metabolic, digestive, nervous, reproductive and immune functions. The CB2 receptor is known to show up exclusively in the immune system cells, including B (attacks invaders outside the cells) and T (attacks infected cells) lymphocytes, and macrophages (a large stationary cell located in tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, particularly at infection sites). Some aspects of the ECS can be found in essentially every cell type within the human body, such as in the central nervous system where the ECS is involved in the regulation of processes including appetite, mood, pain, and memory. Due to ECS modulation, it may have the potential to demonstrate therapeutic benefits for various chronic neurologic and immune conditions.
‘Research efforts of the past few decades have unambiguously evidenced that ECS is one of the central orchestrators of both innate and adaptive immune systems and that a persons endocannabinoid tone can deeply influence immune responses’.
The ECS has developed as a critical modulator of immune responses, including migration, survival and immune cell generation. Endocannabinoids have been linked with the induction of cytokines and the movement of immune cells, such as B cells. CB2 is highly expressed by immune cells, as well as some brain stem located neurons. The way in which CB2 manages the functions of B cells is not entirely clear although, of all immune cells, B cells are where the highest levels of CB2 are expressed. In contrast, CB1 receptors are usually highly expressed by nearly all neurons, however, they are at low levels within immune cells. It is these immune cells that regularly dispatch new gene products when they have interacted with antigens and various bioactive material, and interestingly this also appears to happen when these immune cells interact with cannabinoid receptors.
Data thus far seems to suggest that CB2, much like T cells, strongly and positively regulates B cell immunity, and this is done by encouraging the suitable localisation and retention of Marginal-Zone-B cells. This enables them to react to any foreign antigens that are culminating in the quick production of antibodies. From previous studies, it is clear that CB2 has a crucial function in natural antibody production and is also needed for strong T cell immune responses. Therefore, if anything the endocannabinoid system should be at least investigated when it comes to the treatment of disorders related to the human immune system, as well as chronic inflammatory disorders. More specifically, findings from previous research reveal a chance to develop therapies aimed at CB2 to improve premature immunity against specific categories of pathogens.
To this date research has successfully and fortunately revealed ‘the potential of CB2 in positively regulating B cell homeostasis and T-independent humoral responses, emphasizing the importance of careful studies for the comprehensive understanding of the consequences of CB2 targeting in autoimmune disorders and other diseases where B cells might also participate in pathogenesis.’ However, these systems are still not entirely understood and further testing and research are needed. It is hopeful that in the not-too-distant future immunologists will complete research that will investigate the beneficial effects of the ECS for the treatment of immune system disorders.