Marijuana Treatment for Alzheimer’s Potentially Discovered

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Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5 million Americans every year. It’s a heartbreaking condition that causes the patient to lose mental functions until basic activities become too overwhelming. Loved ones are forced to watch as the patient disappears under the weight of the devastating disease. Until now, there has been no way of curing the condition. Now researchers have made a startling discovery that will change the future of the disease forever, making way for marijuana treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Understanding Alzheimer’s

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A model illustrating a healthy brain on the left and an atrophied Alzheimer’s-stricken brain on the right.

While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown, it is believed to come from a buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The amyloid plaque, clumps together in between neurons. Unhealthy tau proteins turn into a thick insoluble clump in the neurons, creating neurofibrillary tangles. Both types of blockage are thought to be the result of inflammation in the brain. If something could reduce the inflammation and clear the buildup, we would have a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Marijuana Treatment Potential for Alzheimer’s

As it turns out, there is a marijuana treatment for Alzheimer’s. Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the active compound in marijuana, breaks down beta-amyloid, the protein in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s. Scientists at the Salk Institute created a plaque buildup of proteins that included beta-amyloid on human neurons that had been grown in a lab. The neurons were then exposed to THC and other compounds in marijuana. The THC broke down the protein build up and reduced inflammation, making the neurons able to communicate with each other clearly.

Salk professor David Schubert told Science Daily, “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.”

Furthering Prior Alzheimer’s Research

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THC can be used to reduce inflammation in the brain and thus combat Alzheimer’s.

An interesting aspect of what these researchers discovered is that beta-amyloid itself may produce the inflammation in the neurons, not just on the immune-like cells. In 2006, scientists from Scripps Research Institute discovered that THC inhibits that growth of amyloid plaques. They found that it blocks production of the enzyme in the brain that creates them. Now the Salk team have shown that it can also ensure the nerve cell’s survival by getting rid of inflammation as well.

Salk team member Antonio Currais explained, “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. 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.”

There is still a lot of research to do before all the factors are clear, but a marijuana treatment for Alzheimer’s may be around the corner. Live human testing would still have to be done to get the full view of the best treatment process possible. Still, these newest results offer many hope of a future that is Alzheimer’s free.

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