Alzheimer’s disease, named for Dr. Alois Alzheimer who discovered it in 1906, is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out simple tasks. For most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appeared in their mid-60s. It is the most common cause of dementia among older adults and it is on the rise.
So recently, when scientists from the Salk Institute found preliminary evidence suggesting that tetraydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids found in marijuana showed signs of promoting the removal of amyloid beta—the toxic protein also known as the “plaque” associated with Alzheimer’s disease- there was cause for celebration.
Researchers exposed cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta (a major component of the plaque deposits that are a hallmark of the disease) to THC, and then watched as amyloid protein levels dropped. But that wasn’t all, the inflammation associated with high levels of the protein retreated as well.
From the article:
“INFLAMMATION WITHIN THE BRAIN IS A MAJOR COMPONENT OF THE DAMAGE ASSOCIATED WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, BUT IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN ASSUMED THAT THIS RESPONSE WAS COMING FROM IMMUNE-LIKE CELLS IN THE BRAIN, NOT THE NERVE CELLS THEMSELVES,” SAYS ANTONIO CURRAIS, A POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER IN SCHUBERT’S LABORATORY AND FIRST AUTHOR OF THE PAPER. “WHEN WE WERE ABLE TO IDENTIFY THE MOLECULAR BASIS OF THE INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE TO AMYLOID BETA, IT BECAME CLEAR THAT THC-LIKE COMPOUNDS THAT THE NERVE CELLS MAKE THEMSELVES MAY BE INVOLVED IN PROTECTING THE CELLS FROM DYING.”
Researchers have known for a long time that amyloid beta accumulates within the nerve cells of the aging brain long before the appearance of both the plaque and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. What is still unclear is the role of amyloid beta and the plaques it forms in the disease process.
While these results are preliminary, the study shines a light on the fact that more research on marijuana’s properties needs to be done.
Source: Daily Kos