Despite extensive research on the trafficking of the endocannabinoid anandamide (arachidonoyl ethanolamide, AEA) across cell membranes, little is known about the membrane transport of other endocannabinoids, such as 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Previous studies have provided data both in favor and against a cell membrane carrier-mediated transport of endocannabinoids, using different methodological approaches. We have recently shown that endocannabinoids cross the cell membrane bidirectionally and that this process can be specifically blocked using nanomolar inhibitors (Chicca et al., J Biol Chem. 2012, 287:34660-82. and Nicolussi et al., Pharmacol Res. 2014, 80:52-65.).
Within the NCCR TransCure we generate novel tools that are suitable to target endocannabinoid membrane transport with the ultimate aim to identify the transport mechanism and to clone the putative endocannabinoid membrane transporter. In addition, we aim to discover potent and specific inhibitors targeting the cellular uptake of endocannabinoids and to explore their effects in mouse models of psychiatric and inflammatory diseases. In collaboration with industry, Jean-Louis Reymond (Uni Bern) and Karl-Heinz Altmann (ETH Zürich) we are currently developing novel highly potent inhibitors for AEA uptake and explore their pharmacology.
A major focus of the Gertsch group is the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its potential for drug discovery. We employ both classical biochemical methods as also new approaches to interfere with cellular processes within the ECS. Our methods range from in vitro screening, chemical biology and LC-MS analytics (targeted metabolomics) to behavioral mouse models.
Function in NCCR
- Principal Investigator (PI)
- Management Comm. Member
- Delegate for KTT
Full Professor of Membrane Biochemistry at the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern
Tenure Track Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern
- Dr. sc. nat. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland
- M.Sc. in Biochemistry at the University of Sussex, Brighton, England
- Project Advisor Drug Development for MercaChem & Dr. August Wolff GmbH
- International Cannabinoid Research Society
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Society for Med. Plant and Natural Products Research
- Young Investigator Award “Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine”, Jerusalem, Israel (2010)
- Dr. Willmar Schwabe Award (Euro 10’000.-), Berlin, Germany (2010)
- ETH nominee for NETS award (2004)
- Alfred Vogel Award (CHF 10’000.-), Switzerland (2003)