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Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Psoriasis


Patients experience painful, flaky, itchy, scaly skin that continues to be bothersome. It is an immune disease provoked by genetic factors. With every immune disease the role of the endocannabinoid system is useful in treatment and prevention.

What is Psoriasis

skin disease associated with red, scaly, itchy skin that feels hot to the touch, begins to swell and elicits pain. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease of the skin caused by genetic factors that are provoked by external stimuli. Onset can be sudden and flare ups can be difficult to cope with.

How does Psoriasis work

Affecting people of all ages, but usually striking those in the early adulthood, it is rapidly becoming the most common skin disease affecting people. Use of animal models have been unsuccessful in determining the exact cause of the disease. The current belief is that it is caused by some genetic component that leads to an overactive immune response led by T-Lymphocytes in the skin. However, as research has progressed, scientists also believe that inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor playa role in this as well.

Genetic analysis has lead scientists to believe that two genes may be responsible for the onset of psoriasis. Both genetic regions are on chromosome 17q (q means long arm of a chromosome). Both genes are separated by about 6 million bases scientists assume that they contribute independently of each other given their distance apart. The two genes are SLC9A3R1 and NAT9. Now, SLC9A3R1 is reported to be a scaffold protein, a protein that binds to several membranes and contributes to cellular signaling. In this case, SLC9A3R1 is a scaffold protein that links plasma membrane proteins to the actin cytoskeleton of epithelial cells. Now, in the T-Cell, SLC9A3R1 lies in the lipid raft, where there is a higher density of cholesterol, and is believed to be involved in the formation of an immune system synapse. If a problem were to occur with this gene, increased presentation of antigens to the T-Cell could result. Hence, a longer duration of inflammation.

What is the Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Psoriasis

A recurrent theme throughout the body, is the regulatory function of the endocannabinoid system. It helps to regulate the immune response so that it is not overactive in magnitude and not excessive in duration. Many immune cells, such as T-Lymphocytes, have endocannabinoid receptors (CB2) on their cell surface so that they can be retroactively inhibited. When they are, an inflammatory response can be controlled and immune response can be mitigated so as to not cause prolonged swelling and pain at the affected site. But, of course, endocannabinoids will also not magically prevent all types of swelling and inflammation, they simply act to counter balance it. In this case, the role of the endocannabinoid system in psoriasis is to counter balance the immunoinflammatory response.

Can endocannabinoid deficiency affect Psoriasis

One of the characteristics of psoriasis is the constant growth of the predominant cells that line the skin called keratinocytes. As the skin becomes red, and flaky, the patient will scratch away millions of cells in the process so more and more will begin to form. It’s a provocative function of the disease. However, because keratinocytes serve to protect the body from pathogens in the external world, they can secrete chemical messengers should a pathogen(s) ever enter the body. These chemical messengers are called chemokines.
An endocannabinoid deficiency would certainly affect psoriasis because cannabinoids can inhibit keratinocyte proliferation without significant involvement of cannabinoid receptors. Also, because keratinocytes secrete chemokines to alert the body, too many chemokines could prolong the inflammation to the affected skin area. A cannabinoid deficiency would allow those chemokines to continuously be produced as well as allow keratinocytes to continue to grow and replicate uncontrollably.