Universidade Federal de Ciências da Saúde de Porto Alegre (UFCSPA), Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil, Irmandade da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Porto Alegre (ISCMPA), Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common and complex neurological disorder that encompasses a range of clinical, epidemiological, and genetic subtypes. Loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra leading to striatal dopamine depletion is the core mechanism underlying the cardinal motor features of PD. Although depletion of dopamine is the most notable neurotransmitter change in PD, other neurochemical changes occur and contribute to PD symptomatology. Many regions of the nervous system outside the basal ganglia are also involved in PD. The underlying molecular pathogenesis involves multiple pathways and mechanisms, such as α-synuclein proteostasis, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, calcium homeostasis, axonal transport, and neuroinflammation.
Although clinical diagnosis relies on the presence of cardinal motor features, PD is also associated with numerous non-motor symptoms that can be equally disabling than the motor symptoms or even more so. Drugs that enhance intracerebral dopamine concentrations or stimulate dopamine receptors remain the main treatment for motor symptoms. None of available treatments have proven to be neuroprotective or disease-modifying. Dopaminergic drugs are particularly effective during the early stages of the disease. However, PD invariably progresses, and long-term use of these medications may lead to reduced drug efficacy and the development of complications such as motor fluctuations and dyskinesias.
Current pharmacotherapy of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is palliative and unable to modify the progression of neurodegeneration. Treatments that can improve patients’ quality of life with fewer side effects are needed, but not yet available. Cannabidiol (CBD), the major non-psychotomimetic constituent of cannabis, has received considerable research attention in the last decade. In this context, we aimed to critically review the literature on potential therapeutic effects of CBD in PD and discuss clinical and preclinical evidence supporting the putative neuroprotective mechanisms of CBD. We searched MEDLINE (via PubMed) for indexed articles published in English from inception to 2019. The following keywords were used: cannabis; cannabidiol and neuroprotection; endocannabinoids and basal ganglia; Parkinson’s animal models; Parkinson’s history; Parkinson’s and cannabidiol. Few studies addressed the biological bases for the purported effects of CBD on PD. Six preclinical studies showed neuroprotective effects, while three targeted the antidyskinetic effects of CBD. Three human studies have tested CBD in patients with PD: an open-label study, a case series, and a randomized controlled trial. These studies reported therapeutic effects of CBD on non-motor symptoms. Additional research is needed to elucidate the potential effectiveness of CBD in PD and the underlying mechanisms involved.
Conflict of interest statement
JAC, FSG, and AWZ are co-inventors (Mechoulam R, Crippa JA, Guimaraes FS, Zuardi A, Hallak, JE, and Breuer A) of the patent “Fluorinated CBD compounds, compositions and uses thereof. Pub. No.: WO/2014/108899. International Application No.: PCT/IL2014/050023” Def. US no. Reg. 62193296; July 29, 2015; INPI on August 19, 2015 (BR1120150164927). Universidade de São Paulo has licensed the patent to Phytecs Pharm (USP Resolution no. 15.1.130002.1.1). USP has an agreement with Prati-Donaduzzi (Toledo, Brazil) to “develop a pharmaceutical product containing synthetic CBD and prove its safety and therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and anxiety disorders.” The other authors report no conflicts of interest.