Healing autism spectrum disorder with cannabinoids: a neuroinflammatory story.

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Review

. 2020 Dec 21;121:128-143.

doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.12.009. Online ahead of print.

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Emilia Carbone et al. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. .

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with a multifactorial etiology. Latest researches are raising the hypothesis of a link between the onset of the main behavioral symptoms of ASD and the chronic neuroinflammatory condition of the autistic brain; increasing evidence of this connection is shedding light on new possible players in the pathogenesis of ASD. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a key role in neurodevelopment as well as in normal inflammatory responses and it is not surprising that many preclinical and clinical studies account for alterations of the endocannabinoid signaling in ASD. These findings lay the foundation for a better understanding of the neurochemical mechanisms underlying ASD and for new therapeutic attempts aimed at exploiting the renowned anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids to treat pathologies encompassed in the autistic spectrum. This review discusses the current preclinical and clinical evidence supporting a key role of the ECS in the neuroinflammatory state that characterizes ASD, providing hints to identify new biomarkers in ASD and promising therapies for the future.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; cannabidiol; cannabinoids; endocannabinoid system; microglia; neuroinflammation.

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