May 30, 2017, by Lisa Chin

UNMC Research Showcase 2017: Best Press Release

Title: Exploring the Cannabinoid Receptors

Marijuana, hashish, weed… whatever it may be called, the subject of cannabis is quite a head turner, and often for the wrong reasons. But cannabis requires an accomplice to have its notorious effects – the cannabinoid receptors (CBR). These receptors are biological molecules (biomolecules) found in the human body that specifically recognise chemicals present in cannabis (referred as cannabinoids) and set in motion a sequence of signals that elicit a physiological response, like how a lock recognises one unique key (figure 1). Does this mean that the human body itself help us get ‘high’? Yes. How exactly? This intriguing question is the focus of a study at the Molecular Modelling Lab at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

The study uses novel 3-dimensional (3D) computational techniques to explore the structure and function of the CBR. A variety of software tools and applications have been used to build 3D models of the receptors (figure 2), and to run simulations mimicking their real-time environment; the aim being to understand how they distinguish cannabinoid molecules. Being cost-effective and faster, computational techniques serve as an efficient alternative to study biomolecules.

Why study these receptors, though? Dr Abigail Emtage from the School of Pharmacy replies, “these fascinating receptors are involved in the control of a number of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory; if we can understand exactly how the molecules interact with the CBR we can use this information to design new drugs to potentially regulate many or all of these processes!”.

(249 words)

Lahari Murali, 2nd year PhD candidate from the School of Pharmacy, The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

PhD title: Exploring Ligands for Cannabinoid Receptors and Related Receptors for Rational Drug Design


Featured image: Lahari received the Best Press Release Award from one of the judges, Ms Zuraida Zainal Abidin, Senior Manager of Communications at Crops For the Future (CFF). 

More information on the UNMC Research Showcase 2017 is available at:

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