Medical

Old mice get brains of two-month-olds thanks to cannabis

Old mice get brains of two-mon...
If human trials are approved and successful, this little plant could have a big impact on treating dementia
If human trials are approved and successful, this little plant could have a big impact on treating dementia
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If human trials are approved and successful, this little plant could have a big impact on treating dementia
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If human trials are approved and successful, this little plant could have a big impact on treating dementia

It turns out the fountain of youth might spurt smoke instead of a magical liquid. Well, that's not entirely true, but researchers did just discover that one of the active ingredients in marijuana – THC – was able to improve the brains of elderly mice to the level that they seemed like the brains of rodents who were only two months old.

Because mice only have a lifespan of 12-18 months on average, when the rodents get to be about a year old, they are considered seniors. In a study run by researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and the University of Bonn (UB) in Germany, mice aged two, 12 and 18 months were given a small quantity of THC over the course of four weeks. Even though THC is the compound in cannabis that causes its famous "high," the amount given to the rodents was too small to induce that effect.

The researchers then tested the cognitive performance of the mice through tasks such as how well they were able to orient themselves and how well they were able to recognize other mice. They also tested the mouse brains through chemical analysis.

In all cases, the mice who were 12 and 18 months old showed a rollback in ability and biology that was similar to what was exhibited by the two-month-old mice. Not only did they pass the cognitive tests as well as the younger mice, but the researchers discovered that the number of links between the brain's nerve cells had increased, and gene transcription patterns – the process by which RNA copies DNA – resembled those of the two-month-olds.

"It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock," said Andreas Zimmer from the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at UB.

Zimmer says that the study showed the anti-aging effects of THC because it functioned like the natural cannabinoids produced by our own bodies as part of our endocannabinoid systems, which decline as we age. As those substances naturally decrease, our brains age, so it makes sense that replacing them could have an anti-aging effect.

Next for the research team is finding out whether or not THC has the same effect in humans. If so, treatment with the compound could help combat diseases that impair our cognition as we age, such as dementia. If so, the brain-boosting effects of cannabis could join the other promising beneficial effects of the plant including pain and obesity reduction, nausea reduction in the face of chemotherapy, and the potential to combat Alzheimer's disease.

The results of the research have been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Source: University of Bonn

9 comments
VincentWolf
Might be a little late for my mom who has advanced dementia/alzheimers.
JoeSTERN
I have seen cannabis make humans act like two-month-olds too.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
If a little takes one back to one's youth, what about a lot? (Dude, I should have the brain of a fetus right now, right? ☺ )
Observer101
I have been reading about this "possible" cure for dementia and Alzheimers for several years. Get on with it..... REALLY!
sagebrush6
Well, that said, it that why 4 adults ( approx. 24 year olds) walked into the grocery store acting like 5 yer olds? Now that is scary.
McDesign
Dude! That's my skull!
Douglas Bennett Rogers
All of the findings seam opposite to what is observed in humans. E. g., they are fatter, weaker, and more susceptible to unworkable ideas.
Robert in Vancouver
There is lots of scientific proof that pot reduces the IQ of most people who use it. And it stunts brain development in younger people so they will be dumber than average the rest of their life.
oyeringsl@comcast.net
All of the negative responses here are clearly the result of ignorance and lack of cannabis experience. In short, BS. As a lifelong user of cannabis and a medical educator, researcher and social scientist, I can attest to the many beneficial effects of this miracle plant, not just anecdotally with myself and other scientists and academicians, but with an ever-growing body of peer-reviewed research. Commenter robo is clearly suffering from the adverse effects of lack of education or the legal drugs alcohol, nicotine, and government propaganda...or perhaps all them.