Cannabis may help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s in more ways than one. New research indicates that cannabinoids help remove plaque-forming proteins in brain cells. The new study, published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, is the first to show that cannabinoids affect amyloid beta accumulation and inflammation in nerve cells.
Professor David Schubert of the Salk Institute led the study. Schubert’s team found that THC helps not only inflammation, but it blocks harmful proteins that cause a number of symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients. “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,” Schubert stated. The accumulation of the toxic amyloid beta protein is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and its symptoms.
Exposing damaged nerve cells to THC enabled them to survive. The research could open up new novel treatments for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. THC, like endocannabinoids, have to power to activate receptors like switches in the brain. These switches are used for intercellular signaling.
“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,” Antonio Currais, first author of the paper, said in a statement. “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.”
In an earlier study, Schubert’s team gave mice with Alzheimer’s a drug candidate called J147, the THC-like compound that they saw the most successful results. The discovery of J147 and its properties led Schubert’s team to investigate THC in the first place.