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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2015 Jun;10(2):204-16. doi: 10.1007/s11481-015-9603-3. Epub 2015 Apr 16.

Effects of Cannabinoids on T-cell Function and Resistance to Infection.

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Center for Substance Abuse Research, Temple University School of Medicine, Room 859, 3500 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA, 19140, USA,


This review examines the effects of cannabinoids on immune function, with a focus on effects on T-cells, as well as on resistance to infection. The paper considers the immune modulating capacity of marijuana, of ∆(9)-THC extracted from the marijuana plant, and synthetic cannabinoids. Of particular interest are synthetic compounds that are CB2 receptor (CB2R) selective agonists. As the CB2R is principally expressed on cells of the immune system, agonists that target this receptor, and not CB1 (which is mainly expressed on neurons), have the possibility of altering immune function without psychoactive effects. The overall conclusion of the studies discussed in this review is that cannabinoids that bind to the CB2 receptor, including ∆(9)-THC and CB2 selective agonists are immunosuppressive. The studies provide objective evidence for potentially beneficial effects of marijuana and ∆(9)-THC on the immune system in conditions where it is desirable to dampen immune responses. Evidence is also reviewed supporting the conclusion that these same compounds can sensitize to some infections through their immunosuppressive activities, but not to others. An emerging area of investigation that is reviewed is evidence to support the conclusion that CB2 selective agonists are a new class of immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory compounds that may have exceptional beneficial effects in a variety of conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and graft rejection, where it is desirable to dampen the immune response without psychoactive effects.

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