A receptor is a protein molecule that receives messaging signals from outside a cell and passes it into the interior of the cell to initiate a cellular response. Cannabinoid receptors are in the family of G-protein coupled receptors.
Cannabinoid receptors function as subtle sensing devices, tiny vibrating scanners perpetually primed to pick up biochemical cues that flow through fluids surrounding each cell.
Think of the receptor as a gate sitting on the surface of the cell. It is a locked pathway from outside the cell to inside. A specific key will open it so a bio chemical message or some other stimulate can be sent to the interior of the cell. This initiates the cell into some type of action.
The concept of receptors traces itself back to the early 1900’s. The G-protein coupled receptor family represents the largest and most versatile group of cell surface receptors. Drugs active at these receptors have therapeutic actions across a wide range of human diseases.
We still do not understand everything about how they work. It was not until around the 1980 that the mechanism of how they functioned was understood. Since 1992 eight Nobel Prizes have been awarded about work with these receptors. Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of all pharmaceutical drugs available, and two largest selling drugs world wide, all work through affecting G receptors.
The Cannabinoid receptors are in the shape of a helix. Imagine it as a corkscrew that opens outside the cell and transports messenger molecules to inside the cell. But it does not go vertically through the cell wall into the interior. Rather imagine looking at the lacing on a football. They weave in and out 6 times before opening up to the inside.
As a side, why in a helix form? And why so long a pathway for getting into the cell, the longest possible distance following the curving form of the helix? There are answers, though not in the science yet, but in the more imaginative realm of observing and listening to Nature.
When looking at a topological map of a river we always see the meandering pathway the river follows. Each unique, but always the same overall pattern. The same pattern we see when every water is flowing. What we are seeing is a two dimensional slice of a three dimensional helix form. Water always moves in this manner. It renews and enlivens itself in this sensitive chaos. Take the rhythm out, straighten the river, and it dies. Our receptors have taken the form most loved by Nature. The helix forms gives the greatest strength and allows the most encoding of information in the shortest length. Because of its circular path. This is why DNA is in this shape and the shape is continually repeated in our bodies. Following how the river flows. Following Nature’s wisdom.
Imagine the CB receptors as mountain creeks. Taking these little packets of information on the longest possible circular distance on their journey from outside the cell depositing them inside. Enlivening, charging the message with each turn of the helix and having more time to gain access to the most information.
What other “listening” part of our body is in this curved return on itself shape? The Cochlea in the ear. Though here it is more a vortex than a helix, both giving the most surface area to receive information in the least space. Both avenues of communication within the body. It only makes sense.