Anandamide

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Anandamide, also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, is an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter. It was isolated and its structure was first described by Czech analytical chemist Lumír Ondřej Hanuš and American molecular pharmacologist William Anthony Devane in the Laboratory of Raphael Mechoulam, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel in 1992. The name is taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means "bliss, delight", and amide.[1][2] It is synthesized from N-arachidonoyl phosphatidylethanolamine by multiple pathways.[3] It is degraded primarily by the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme, which converts anandamide into ethanolamine and arachidonic acid. As such, inhibitors of FAAH lead to elevated anandamide levels and are being pursued for therapeutic use.[4][5]

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Physiological functions

Anandamide's effects can be either central, in the brain, or peripheral, in other parts of the body. These distinct effects are mediated primarily by CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the periphery. The latter are mainly involved in functions of the immune system. Cannabinoid receptors were originally discovered as being sensitive to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol9-THC, commonly called THC), which is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. The discovery of anandamide came from research into CB1 and CB2, as it was inevitable that a naturally occurring (endogenous) chemical would be found to affect these receptors.

Moreover, anandamide is thought to be an endogenous ligand for vanilloid receptors (which are involved in the transduction of acute and inflammatory pain signals), activating the receptor in a PKC-dependent (protein kinase C-dependent) manner.[citation needed]

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