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Keywords:

  • liver;
  • cannabinoid receptor 1;
  • cannabinoid receptor 2;
  • liver fibrosis;
  • alcoholic liver disease;
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease;
  • steatosis;
  • hepatic inflammation;
  • Kupffer cells;
  • hepatic myofibroblasts

Chronic liver diseases represent a major health problem due to cirrhosis and its complications. During the last decade, endocannabinoids and their receptors have emerged as major regulators of several pathophysiological aspects associated with chronic liver disease progression. Hence, hepatic cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) receptors display beneficial effects on alcoholic fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, liver injury, regeneration and fibrosis. Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) receptors have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several lesions such as alcoholic and metabolic steatosis, liver fibrogenesis, or circulatory failure associated with cirrhosis. Although the development of CB1 antagonists has recently been suspended due to the high incidence of central side effects, preliminary preclinical data obtained with peripherally restricted CB1 antagonists give real hopes in the development of active CB1 molecules devoid of central adverse effects. CB2-selective molecules may also offer novel perspectives for the treatment of liver diseases, and their clinical development is clearly awaited. Whether combined treatment with a peripherally restricted CB1 antagonist and a CB2 agonist might result in an increased therapeutic potential will warrant further investigation.

LINKED ARTICLES This article is part of a themed issue on Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine. To view the other articles in this issue visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.2011.163.issue-7