Cannabinoids recently have been shown to control the cell survival/death decision. Thus, cannabinoids induce growth arrest or apoptosis in a number of transformed neural and non-neural cells in culture. In addition, cannabinoid administration induces regression of malignant gliomas in rodents by a mechanism that may involve sustained ceramide generation and extracellular signal-regulated kinase activation. In contrast, most of the experimental evidence indicates that cannabinoids may protect normal neurons from toxic insults, such as glutamatergic overstimulation, ischaemia, and oxidative damage. Regarding immune cells, low doses of cannabinoids may enhance proliferation, whereas high doses of cannabinoids usually induce growth arrest or apoptosis. The potential therapeutic applications of these findings are discussed. © 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
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