An active compound in cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has reportedly been found to eliminate the toxic accumulation of amyloid beta proteins in the brain, which are suspected in promoting the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This new discovery supports past research that suggests that the THC compound has therapeutic, neuroprotective effects in the brain.
“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,” David Schubert, Professor of Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, said.
Due to its value in research and growing use as a medical tool, researchers are working on breeding genetically modified yeast to grow THC faster and more efficiently, thus making THC more readily available.
If you’re not familiar with this miracle compound, THC is absorbed when it passes from the lungs to the bloodstream, where it attaches to cannabinoid receptors all over our body. This causes neurons in our body to release dopamine, a chemical in our brain’s “reward and pleasure center” that makes us feel good. This increase of dopamine levels in the brain is responsible for the euphoria that marijuana users experience. THC is also valued for its pain-relieving properties, and is used to treat symptoms for a variety of medical conditions such as HIV, chronic pain, chemotherapy, and stroke.
In a recent breakthrough, researchers have also discovered that THC helps the body to clear out toxic formations or “plaques” of amyloid beta.
Although we’re not entirely sure of what causes Alzheimer’s disease, researchers suspect that it may be an accumulation of two types of lesions in the brain called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Recent studies have linked the rapid buildup of plaques and neurofibrillary tangles to inflammation in the brain tissue, so if we can find something that has both anti-inflammatory properties and promotes the removal of these lesions, then we could be one step closer towards finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.
In 2006, researchers at Scripps Research Institute discovered that THC inhibits the production of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme that produces them. Now, Schubert and his colleagues have found that THC also prevents an inflammatory response from the brain’s nerve cells. By stopping the inflammatory response, THC prevents the devastating tissue damage and cell death that follows inflammation.
“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, a researcher in Schubert’s laboratory, said. “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.”
With this newfound knowledge, this could be the beginning of a phenomenal medical breakthrough. Unfortunately, because the U.S. Government limits cannabis research among scientists, this has only been tested on neurons in Schubert’s laboratory. The next step towards a line of treatment for Alzheimer’s would be observing the link between THC, inflammation, and amyloid plaque accumulation in clinical trials. Fortunately, Schubert and his team have discovered a new compound dubbed “J147” which appears to have THC-like qualities. Schubert’s team can freely experiment with J147 without the same governmental limitations as THC, so a cure may not be so far off after all.
This content was inspired by an article that can be found here.