New Study: Marijuana Fights Alzheimer's Disease
By Steve Elliott
Yet another study is adding to the growing body of evidence for using cannabis to treat and prevent Alzheimer's disease. The study found that unlike conventional anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals, THC has "no toxicity."
New research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in September "strongly suggest[s] that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer's disease through multiple functions and pathways," reports David Downs at SF Gate.
Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than five million Americans diagnosed. One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer's or other dementia, and it cost the nation about $203 billion in 2013.
Researchers at the University of South Florida and Thomas Jefferson University wanted to look into the "potential therapeutic qualities of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with respect to slowing or halting the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer's disease."
They treated Alzheimer's research cells with THC and examined them at the 6-hour, 24-hour, and 48-hour points. They found THC "to be effective at lowering Ab levels ... in a dose-dependent manner." Amyloid-b is a type of protein linked to Alzheimer's symptoms.
THC "directly interacts" with amyloid-b, "thereby inhibiting aggregation." It was also effective in lowering other key markers of Alzheimers.
Also extremely encouraging was the fact that "no toxicity"was observed from the THC, the researchers noted. They even found that THC "enhances" the function of the mitochondria, which are the cell's energy factories.
"THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer's methodology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function," said the study's lead author, Chuanhai Cao, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy.
“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease," Cao noted. "Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future.”
Other research published in the same issue of the journal indicates THC boosts the body's natural ability to fight Alzheimer's through the endocannabinoid system.
Alzheimer's is thought to result from a lifetime of brain inflammation. Marijuana is one of the safest anti-inflammatories known to medicine.
Some neuroscientists believe that smoking marijuana in early adulthood may prevent the onset of Alzheimer's later in life. Falling rates of the disease among Baby Boomers tends to buttress that theory. Time Magazine in 2012 reported that cannabis slows the aging of the brain.
Smoking, eating or vaporizing cannabis containing THC and CBD (cannabidiol) directly effects nerve cell function, reducing chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular dysfunction, while promoting stability of the human body's internal environment (homeostasis) and healthy brain cells (neurotrophic support), studies show.
“What we found was that not only did the single puff a day reverse the memory impairment but also restarted neurogenesis,” Gary Wenk, a researcher from Ohio State University, told the Seattle PI this year.
Other studies have shown THC reduces other key pathological markers of Alzheimer’s.
The federal government has patented the cannabinoids as neuroprotectants, while keeping marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, by definition meaning it has "no medical use and high potential for abuse."
Graphic: Toke Signals