Palmitoylethanolamide and White Matter Lesions: Evidence for Therapeutic Implications.
Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), the naturally occurring amide of ethanolamine and palmitic acid, is an endogenous lipid compound endowed with a plethora of pharmacological functions, including analgesic, neuroprotective, immune-modulating, and anti-inflammatory effects. Although the properties of PEA were first characterized nearly 65 years ago, the identity of the receptor mediating these actions has long remained elusive, causing a period of research stasis. In the last two decades, a renewal of interest in PEA occurred, and a series of interesting studies have demonstrated the pharmacological properties of PEA and clarified its mechanisms of action. Recent findings showed the ability of formulations containing PEA in promoting oligodendrocyte differentiation, which represents the first step for the proper formation of myelin. This evidence opens new and promising research opportunities. White matter defects have been detected in a vast and heterogeneous group of diseases, including age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Here, we summarize the history and pharmacology of PEA and discuss its therapeutic potential in restoring white matter defects.