The use of marijuana and cannabis compounds in the medical field is increasing.
We’ve all heard how it can help cancer patients cope with their disease, as well as their treatments, but now it may be able to help patients with another serious disease as well: Alzheimer’s.
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In a new study from the Salk Institute, scientists have discovered that tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has been helping relieve plaque forming Alzheimer’s proteins from lab-grown brain cells. Although research is still in the preliminary stages, the find is promising, and it may just lead to the creation of new therapeutics for patients suffering from the disease.
Other studies have been conducted with similar results, but this is the first time researchers have been able to demonstrate and record that cannabinoids have an affect on both the inflammation and accumulation in the nerve cells directly.
“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,” explains David Schubert, Salk Professor and senior author of the study.
The breaking down of protein buildup is important to the overall find, but what people don’t understand is just how important reducing inflammation within the cells can be. When the cells are inflamed, it makes it incredibly difficult for your neurons to communicate the way they’re supposed to, which is the root of the disease itself.
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Besides the discovery that THC can break down plaque buildup and reduce inflammation, this study also shows researchers that there is a strong connection between the protein plaque and the neurons themselves, which has only been previously hypothesized. It’s believed that THC is able to work within the brain’s naturally occurring endocannabinoid receptors in order to slow the progression of the disease.
The study is still only in the preliminary stages, and there is a lot of work to be done before this link between THC and Alzheimer’s can be called anything more than casual. The recent acceptance of both medical and recreational marijuana has opened the door for scientists to study the effects of cannabis compounds on the brain and body. There is still a vast amount of work to be done, but the possibilities are enlightening.