Photo of Douglas  McHugh

Douglas McHugh

Associate Professor of Medical Sciences
Course Director, Schol Reflection Concentration Capstone

BS, PhD, The University of Aberdeen

School of Medicine


Frank H Netter, MD, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences

Phone Number

(203) 582-6534

Mail Drop



Educational Background

PhD Biomedical Sciences (Pharmacology);
- The University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, 2002 - 2006

BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences (Pharmacology);
- The University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, 1998 - 2002

Research Interests

My research involves the rapidly expanding field of endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) and related lipid pharmacology.

Pharmacology is the area of medicine concerned with the uses, effects and modes of action of drugs. A current branch of pharmacology that has arisen from such natural product research, and is on the brink of promising new medical treatments, is the emerging field that encompasses the cannabinoids.

The term ‘cannabinoid’ refers to members of a group of compounds that were uniquely produced by the Indian hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is the name given to the dried leaves and flower heads of the cannabis plant, and reports of therapeutically beneficial marijuana-induced analgesia (pain relief) and anti emesis (prevention of vomiting) literally date back millennia.

Cell surface receptors are specialised proteins that take part in communication between the cell and the outside world. Cannabinoid cell surface receptors are abundant in the brain and well known for mediating the effects of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. The discovery in mammalian cells of these specific membrane receptors (called CB1 and CB2) that recognised plant-derived cannabinoids triggered a search for an endogenous ‘cannabinoid’; in other words, a molecule produced naturally by the human body that was the true counterpart to the freshly discovered receptors. This culminated in the identification of the lipid molecule, anandamide (AEA), named after the Sanskrit word, ‘ananda’, which means bliss. A few years later, a second endocannabinoid lipid, 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), was also isolated.

Over the past two decades, this endocannabinoid system of lipid messengers and receptors has gained recognition for its broad and vital role in a variety of physiological processes including pain, neurodegeneration, appetite and energy regulation, learning and memory, drug addiction, bone remodelling and osteoporosis, reproduction, immune and cardiovascular function, cancer, and ocular physiology. As of 2012, our understanding held that the pharmacology of endogenous and plant cannabinoids was elaborate; well-documented evidence supported the existence of cannabinoid receptors in addition to CB1 and CB2. My research involves the endogenous signalling lipid N-arachidonoyl glycine (NAGly), its G protein-coupled receptor GPR18, and their role within the endocannabinoid system.

Honors & Awards

Student Choice Nomination for Outstanding Faculty Members;
Indiana University, 2012

ICRS Walker Memorial Scholar Award;
International Cannabinoid Research Society, 2011

ICRS Scientific Achievement Award;
International Cannabinoid Research Society, 2005

Wellcome Trust Studentship;
The University of Aberdeen, 2001

Work Experience

Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences;
- Quinnipiac University, 2012 - Present

Assistant Scientist & Visiting Assistant Professor;
- Indiana University, 2012

Research Associate & Visiting Assistant Professor;
- Indiana University, 2011 - 2012

Research Associate & Adjunct Professor;
- Indiana University, 2010 - 2011

Research Associate;
- Indiana University, 2008 - 2010

Post-doctoral Research Fellow;
- Indiana University, 2006 - 2008

All Publications

McHugh, D, Wager-Miller, J, Page, J, and Bradshaw, H B (2012) siRNA knockdown of GPR18 receptors in BV-2 microglia attenuates the cell migration induced by N-arachidonyl glycine Journal of Molecular Signaling 7:10

McHugh, D (2012) GPR18 in Microglia: implications for the CNS and endocannabinoid system signalling British Journal of Pharmacology doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.02019x

McHugh, D and Bradshaw, H B (2012) GPR18 and NAGly signalling: New members of the endocannabinoid family or distant cousins? The Springer series

McHugh D, Page, J, Dunn, E, and Bradshaw, H B (2012) Δ9-THC and N-arachidonoyl glycine are full agonists at GPR18 and cause migration in the human endometrial cell line, HEC-1B British Journal of Pharmacology 165: 2414-2424

Schicho, R, Bashashati, M, Bawa, M, McHugh, D, Saur, D, Zimmer, A, Bradshaw, H B, Mackie, K, McCafferty, D M , Sharkey, K A , and Storr, M (2010) The atypical cannabinoid O-1602 protects against experimental colitis and inhibits neutrophil recruitment Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 17: 1651–1664

McHugh, D, Hu, S S-J, Rimmerman, N, Juknat, A, Vogel, Z, Walker, J M , and Bradshaw, H B (2010) N-arachidonoyl glycine, an abundant endogenous lipid, potently drives directed cellular migration through GPR18, the putative abnormal cannabidiol receptor BMC Neuroscience 11:44

Bradshaw, H B, Lee, S H, and McHugh, D (2009) Orphan Endogenous Lipids and Orphan GPCRs: a Good Match Prostaglandins & Other Lipid Mediators 89: 131-134

McHugh, D, and Ross, R A (2009) Endogenous Cannabinoids and Neutrophil Chemotaxis Vitamins & Hormones 81:337-365

Rimmerman, N, Bradshaw, H B, Hughes, H V, Chen, J S, Hu, S S, McHugh, D, Vefring, E, Jahnsen, J A, Thompson, E L, Masuda, K, Cravatt, B F, Burstein, S, Vasko, M R, Prieto, A L, O’Dell, D K, and Walker, J M (2008) N-Palmitoyl Glycine, a Novel Endogenous Lipid that acts as a Modulator of Calcium Influx and Nitric Oxide Production in Sensory Neurons Molecular Pharmacology 74:213-224

McHugh, D, Tanner, C, Mechoulam, R, Pertwee, R G, and Ross, R A (2008) Inhibition of Human Neutrophil Chemotaxis by Endogenous Cannabinoids and Phytocannabinoids: Evidence for a Site Distinct from CB1 and CB2 Molecular Pharmacology 73:441-450

Rubio, M, McHugh, D, Fernández-Ruiz, J, Bradshaw, H, and Walker, J M (2007) Short-term exposure to alcohol in rats affects brain levels of anandamide, other N acylethanolamines and 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol Neuroscience Letters 421:270-274

McHugh, D, McMaster, S R , Pertwee, R G , Roy, S , Mahadevan, A , Razdan, R K , and Ross, R A (2006) Novel Compounds that interact with both Leukotriene B4 and Vanilloid TRPV1 Receptors Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 316:955-965

Professional Memberships

Society for Neuroscience (SfN)

British Pharmacological Society (BPS)

International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS)