The endogenous cannabimimetic compound, and anandamide analogue, N-palmitoyl-ethanolamine (PEA), was shown to exert potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in experimental models of visceral, neuropathic and inflammatory pain by acting via several possible mechanisms. However, only scant data have been reported on the regulation of PEA levels during pathological conditions in animals or, particularly, humans. We review the current literature on PEA and report the results of three separate studies indicating that its concentrations are significantly increased during three different inflammatory and neuropathic conditions, two of which have been assessed in humans, and one in a mouse model. In patients affected with chronic low back pain, blood PEA levels were not significantly different from those of healthy volunteers, but were significantly and differentially increased (1.6-fold, P<0.01, N = 10 per group) 30 min following an osteopathic manipulative treatment. In the second study, the paw skin levels of PEA in mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetic neuropathic pain were found to be significantly higher (1.5-fold, P<0.005, N = 5) than those of control mice. In the third study, colonic PEA levels in biopsies from patients with ulcerative colitis were found to be 1.8-fold higher (P<0.05, N = 8-10) than those in healthy subjects. These heterogeneous data, together with previous findings reviewed here, substantiate the hypothesis that PEA is an endogenous mediator whose levels are increased following neuroinflammatory or neuropathic conditions in both animals and humans, possibly to exert a local anti-inflammatory and analgesic action. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
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