A study from the Salk Institute, supported by the National Institutes of Health has found evidence that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other compounds found in marijuana may promote the removal of amyloid beta, the toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Senior researcher of the paper, Salk Professor David Schubert says, “Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,”
It is known that amyloid beta accumulates within the nerve cells of the aging brain and is a major component of the plaque deposits that characterize Alzheimer’s Disease.
In this study published in the June 2016 edition of Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, Salk’s research team studied laboratory mice whose nerve cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta to mimic Alzheimer’s disease. They showed that exposing the cells to THC reduced amyloid beta protein levels, and eliminated the inflammatory response from the nerve cells caused by the protein, preventing nerve cell death.
“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” says researcher Antonio Currais. “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.”
Lead author Schubert says that the use of THC-like compounds as a therapy would need to be tested in clinical trials before nay treatment recommendations could be made by doctors to their patients.