Dr. Chris Breivogel’s interests are around cannabinoids, compounds that are derived from the plant cannabis sativa (also known as marijuana or hemp) and/or that activate cannabinoid receptors in the body. The brain expresses very high numbers of cannabinoid CB1 receptors, the protein that is the target of one of the main constituents of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). He also has an interest in cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and another lesser-known compounds derived from cannabis. These other compounds appear to exert their actions on the body via other targets than cannabinoids receptors, but how they work is not yet clear. This work will help to understand an important systems in the brain, and also help to understand the effects of using cannabis or other drugs that act on the cannabinoid receptor and/or are found in cannabis.
Most recently, he has also been studying another receptor known as GPR6 and the effects of synthetic cannabinoid receptor activators. Synthetic cannabinoids have recently been found in “fake marijuana” that is being sold and used by the public. There is a lot of data on the effects of THC in humans from thousands of years of marijuana use, and decades of scientific research that began as early as the 19th century. The effects of the synthetic cannabinoids in humans are only beginning to be understood, but it’s clear they are far more dangerous to health than cannabis or THC. He is working with a rodent model to study the effects of THC compared to synthetics.