Palmitoylethanolamide: proposed role in the diseased brain

Dr. Harald S. Hansen from the Department of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapy, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark discussed the roles of palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) in brain disorders, in a paper, published in 2010.

Hansen started pointing out that amides of fatty acids and ethanolamine, called the N-Acylethanolamines or acylethanolamides attracted attention as bioactive lipids for the first time in 1957 when it was discovered that palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) isolated from soybeans, peanuts, and egg yolk had anti-inflammatory activity.

The metabolism of PEA is summerized by Hansen: PEA and its congeners are formed from the phospholipid, N-acylated phosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE) by several enzymatic pathways.

In brain tissue, PEA and related compounds are probably associated with membrane structures and intracellular carrier proteins.

PEA  in the rat brain can be found in average concentrations of around or above 100 pmol/g tissue each; other acylethanolamides are less abundant (e.g., anandamide, linoleoylethanolamide, arachidoylethanolamide, docosanoylethanolamide, tetracosanoylethanolamide, docosahexaenoylethanolamide, are found in levels of 1–30pmol/g.


Hansen discusses the various potential roles of PEA in the brain and summerizes as in the table.

Hansen HS. Palmitoylethanolamide and other anandamide congeners. Proposed role in the diseased brain. Exp Neurol. 2010 Jul;224(1):48-55. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.03.022. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

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