A new study found that certain chemical present in cannabis can help reduce the build up of plaque and cellular inflammation, both of which are linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The discovery means that cannabis might be helpful in treating the disease.
The study was conducted by scientists at the Salk Institute. It was published last week in the scientific journal Nature.
The objective of the study was to learn more about a protein called amyloid beta. Scientists have noticed that the protein tends to show up in certain nerve cells before the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Amyloid beta also contributes to the build up of plaque deposits on brain cells. This build up is a hallmark of the disease. Amyloid beta has also been linked to cellular inflammation in Alzheimer’s patients, which can lead to higher rates of neuron death.
However, when we go beyond recognizing amyloid beta as a common feature in those who have the disease, scientists still aren’t completely sure what effect this protein has on our brains.
In the new study, researchers grew neurons in a lab. Through a series of tests, they discovered that exposing the neurons to THC and other cannabinoids, helped to reduce amyloid beta levels. The cells that were exposed to these cannabis-derived chemicals also showed decreased inflammation.
“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s,” said researcher David Schubert, “we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells.”
By helping reduce the prevalence of amyloid beta and by reducing cellular inflammation, cannabinoids may be a powerful tool in helping brain cells survive. This, researchers think, could make cannabinoids a helpful way to fight the onset of Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease leads to memory loss and is the number one cause of dementia. Roughly 5.4 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to grow.
Given how many people are affected by Alzheimer’s, researchers are looking for effective ways to treat the disease before it sets in. This most recent study suggests that cannabis could be a powerful form of treatment.