Medical

Marijuana compound smokes the seeds of Alzheimer's disease

The idea that THC can put the brakes on amyloid beta proteins isn't entirely new
The idea that THC can put the brakes on amyloid beta proteins isn't entirely new
View 2 Images
Professor David Schubert believes his is the first study to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells
1/2
Professor David Schubert believes his is the first study to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells
The idea that THC can put the brakes on amyloid beta proteins isn't entirely new
2/2
The idea that THC can put the brakes on amyloid beta proteins isn't entirely new

Memory loss, decline in brain function and communication skills are all clear indicators of Alzheimer's disease. But the brain's chemistry begins to change long before these telltale signs appear through the accumulation of what are known as amyloid beta proteins. These proteins go on to form brain plaques that correspond with the neurodegenerative disease, but what if it were possible to intervene somehow? Scientists are reporting that exposure to certain compounds in marijuana can cleanse the brain of harmful amyloid beta cells, offering up new clues as to how we might stop the disease in its early stages.

While we are learning more about Alzheimer's everyday, with new insights into its destructive forces, the development of potential blood tests and treatments to reverse its symptoms being just a few recent breakthroughs in the area, there's a whole lot we still don't know.

How exactly the amyloid beta proteins give rise to plaques and in turn wreak havoc on the brain isn't entirely clear, but that hasn't stopped researchers working to avert the process altogether. The development of natural molecules, debris-clearing proteins and drugs inspired by snake venom have all shown promise as tools to stop or slow the buildup of plaques.

And now researchers at the Salk Institute have uncovered new evidence supporting another candidate, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Working with modified nerve cells engineered to produce high levels of amyloid beta, the researchers found that the presence of these proteins caused nerve cell inflammation and higher rates of neuron death.

But by exposing the cells to THC, they reduced levels of the amyloid beta proteins, which also had the effect of stopping inflammation of the nerve cells and allowing more of them to survive.

The idea that THC can put the brakes on amyloid beta proteins isn't entirely new. Another preclinical experiment at the University of South Florida in 2014 found that low doses of the compound could inhibit amyloid beta production. In fact, a 2008 paper demonstrated that THC binds to a key enzyme that induces aggregation of amyloid beta proteins, also inhibiting its buildup.

While the Salk research throws further weight behind the idea that THC can rid the brain of these harmful proteins and is useful for that reason, it also helps our understanding of the disease by identifying a source of brain inflammation: from the nerve cells in response to heightened amyloid beta levels. Research has shown that inflammation in the brain is not just a byproduct of the disease, but can actively worsen it, so understanding how it comes about could open up new avenues to treatment.

"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," says Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.

The researchers point out that these early experiments were carried out only on lab-grown cells, and that further testing in clinical trials would be required before such an approach is cleared for therapeutic use.

The research was published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease.

Source: Salk Institute

8 comments
keith.forman@conductix.com
This verifies the adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
witipete
I know a lot of people who indulge in the Marijuana uptake and most of them have very poor memory along with a number of other od mental conditions. Surely this so called scientific report was prepared by defenders of the habit. There are a lot of foods that do the same as what is claimed in this article without the hang ups that come with the Marijuana religion.
Calson
Researchers should have no difficulty in recruiting test subjects.
Kpar
It has also been known for years that cigarette smokers (the tobacco kind) have a reduced incidence of Alzheimers. While I do not use such, I find it imperative that this research continue- this form of dementia is just about the cruelest end imaginable.
MattII
@witipete, the brain is a very complex organ, so I'm hardly surprised at this. It's the same sort of thing as hard antibiotics, used carefully they can save you from an otherwise lethal bacterial infection, but used incorrectly they can kill you.
Arahant
@witipete: its not the same thing, hundreds of different things, quite possible more, effect memory in the brain. When cannabis users stop smoking whatever reduction in memory they had goes away, its only temporary. Thats not what happens with alzheimer's. The fact that cannabis could cause a reduction in a chemical that causes alzheimer's, even thought cannabis in some ways reduces memory, really isn't in any way unscientific. You just have to look at things realistically rather then a face value. The world is way more complicated then "but cannabis causes abit of memory loss so how could stop alzheimer's which also is also partially memory loss?" Why is it that some chemicals have opposite effects in some people? Why is it that the effects of chemicals are so different in different people, or at the very least not completely the same? If life was so simple how come we havn't figured out the cures to everything already, and why does every year new information come out contradicting old information or turning things on their head? Because life is complicated, but if you educate yourself it becomes less so.
CzechsterMarek
Big Pharms Trolls are going to gang up on this info. Big Pharma and our Prostiticians have spent eighty years protecting their big pot of gold.
tjcoop3
@ witepete Being stoned is very different than using cannabis thereputically. I use a small amount to mitigate symptoms of fibromyalgia. Friends have told me that I actually seem to have more clarity not less. 30 yrs ago or more I was a pot head. The two are very different!
Thanks for reading our articles. Please consider subscribing to New Atlas Plus.
By doing so you will be supporting independent journalism, plus you will get the benefits of a faster, ad-free experience.