Expression of the endocannabinoid system in fibroblasts and myofascial tissues, 2008

Topics: Cannabinoids; Endocannabinoids; Ajulemic acid; Osteopathic medicine; Chiropractic; Myofascial release; Fibromyalgia; Myofascial trigger points; Biodynamics

Authors: J M McPartland


The endocannabinoid (eCB) system, like the better-known endorphin system, consists of cell membrane receptors, endogenous ligands and ligandmetabolizing enzymes. Two cannabinoid receptors are known: CB1 is principally located in the nervous system, whereas CB2 is primarily associated with the immune system. Two eCB ligands, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), are mimicked by cannabis plant compounds. The first purpose of this paper was to review the eCB system in detail, highlighting aspects of interest to bodyworkers, especially eCB modulation of pain and inflammation. Evidence suggests the eCB system may help resolve myofascial trigger points and relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, expression of the eCB system in myofascial tissues has not been established. The second purpose of this paper was to investigate the eCB system in fibroblasts and other fascia-related cells. The investigation used a bioinformatics approach, obtaining microarray data via the GEO database ( GEO data mining revealed that fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, chondrocytes and synoviocytes expressed CB1, CB2 and eCB ligand-metabolizing enzymes. Fibroblast CB1 levels nearly equalled levels expressed by adipocytes. CB1 levels upregulated after exposure to inflammatory cytokines and equiaxial stretching of fibroblasts. The eCB system affects fibroblast remodeling through lipid rafts associated with focal adhesions and dampens cartilage destruction by decreasing fibroblast-secreted metalloproteinase enzymes. In conclusion, the eCB system helps shape biodynamic embryological development, diminishes nociception and pain, reduces inflammation in myofascial tissues and plays a role in fascial reorganization. Practitioners wield several tools that upregulate eCB activity, including myofascial manipulation, diet and lifestyle modifications, and pharmaceutical approaches.

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