PURPOSE: The endocannabinoid system has emerged as a key regulatory signaling pathway in the pathophysiology of alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD). More than 30 years of research have established different roles of endocannabinoids and their receptors in various aspects of liver diseases, such as steatosis, inflammation, and fibrosis. However, pharmacological applications of the endocannabinoid system for the treatment of ALD have not been successful because of psychoactive side effects, despite some beneficial effects. Thus, a more delicate and detailed elucidation of the mechanism linking the endocannabinoid system and ALD may be of paramount significance in efforts to apply the system to the treatment of ALD.
SEARCH METHODS: Three electronic databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, and Cochrane Library) were used for literature search from November 1988 to April 2021. Major keywords used for literature searches were “cannabinoid,” “cannabinoid receptor,” “ALD,” “steatosis,” and “fibrosis.”
SEARCH RESULTS: According to the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the authors selected 47 eligible full-text articles out of 2,691 searched initially. Studies in the past 3 decades revealed the opposite effects of cannabinoid receptors CB1R and CB2R on steatosis, inflammation, and fibrosis in ALD.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: This review summarizes the endocannabinoid signaling in the general physiology of the liver, the pathogenesis of ALD, and some of the potential therapeutic implications of cannabinoid-based treatments for ALD.