California: San Diego Alzheimer's Researcher Calls For More Marijuana Studies
By Derrick Stanley
A group of San Diego scientists put out a study recently suggesting an active ingredient in marijuana may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's disease.
Future research is needed to confirm the results, but one of the scientists worries those follow-up studies may not happen due to restrictions on research involving marijuana.
"To work on anything related to marijuana or these psychoactive drugs in the United States is, from a scientific point of view, extremely difficult," said Dave Schubert of the Salk Institute, the study's senior author.
"There are so many rules and limitations on what can be done," he said.
Schubert and his colleagues exposed human brain cells to THC in lab experiments. They found that by stimulating cannabinoid receptors in these cells, THC reduced the inflammation and plaque build-up that precede the onset of Alzheimer's.
Schubert said these results are promising, but to know if THC can actually keep Alzheimer's at bay in patients, follow-up studies will need to confirm this effect in animals and humans. That won't be easy, Schubert said, because the Drug Enforcement Association still considers marijuana to be a dangerous drug with no medical use.
"Best to let the science do its work and sort these things out," Schubert said.
Schubert said his lab's work on marijuana and Alzheimer's is completely at a standstill, considering the funding and regulatory hurdles involved in securing large amounts of THC for use in living organisms. He hopes the DEA will reclassify the drug when they take up the issue next month.