Study: Marijuana (2007-8, 2011, 2015-16) & Alzheimers Disease
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Researchers have found that not only does THC, an active ingredient of marijuana, remove beta-amyloid but it reduces inflammation, a contributing problem. Beta-amyloid is the most prolific of several proteins that clump together in the brain, clogging neural pathways and causing nerve cell death.
The researchers wanted to learn more about the process by which the benefit occurs and the role of inflammation. They found that increased levels of beta-amyloid correspond with increased levels of inflammation and that beta-amyloid actually initiates a damaging inflammatory response - which was somewhat similar to the natural inflammatory response of our immune system to any bacterial or viral invader.
They were able to identify just how inflammation in the brain takes place on the molecular level. They also determined that substances naturally created by nerve cells are similar to THC. They then treated nerve cells that had a high level of beta-amyloid with THC and discovered that the inflammatory response was reduced and in turn, the beta-amyloid levels were reduced and in turn, nerve cell death decreased.
Their conclusion was that the process of brain cell death in Alzheimer's is due to an automatic catalytic inflammatory response to beta-amyloid by brain nerve cells and that this toxic inflammatory response compounds the problem. Treatment with THC was found to block the inflammatory response as well as remove the problematic protein, beta-amyloid.
Researchers: A. Currais, O. Quehenberger, et al.
Published: Amyloid proteotoxicity initiates an inflammatory response blocked by cannabinoids, Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, June, 2016.
Researchers report that cannabinoids, both those derived from marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids have great capacity for reducing inflammation and regulating the immune system in the central nervous system making it a useful adjunct in treatment of neuroinflammatory conditions This occurs because there are receptors in the CNS which are activated by cannabinoids ("cannabinoid receptors"). Alzheimer's characterized by both beta-amyloid accumulation and inflammation is one of these conditions that may benefit from cannabinoids.
Researchers: V. Chiurchiu, et al.
Published: Cannabinoid Signaling and Neuroinflammatory Diseases: A Melting pot for the Regulation of Brain Immune Responses, Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, June, 2015.
The endocannabinoid system (see the 2008 study below) contains receptors that react to cannabinoids that the body produces naturally. Researchers are finding that this system is a key component in the maintenance, regulation and health of nerve cells. They are able to provide protection to nerve cells from cell damage and death by slowing damage caused by over-stimulated nerve cells and damage from oxidation and inflammation. Since a number of conditions involve the health of nerve cells, such as Alzheimer's disease the role of cannabinoids, both naturally produced by the body, and introduced as therapy may be a key to future treatment.
Researchers: A. Gowran, J. Noonan, V.A. Campbell.
Published: The multiplicity of action of cannabinoids: implications for treating neurodegeneration, CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, December, 2011.
The central nervous system contains receptors that react to the presence of cannabinoids and the body produces a type of cannabinoid naturally. These receptors are important in helping regulate many neurophysiological processes including perception, appetite, mood, memory and experience of pain. The endocannabinoid system, throughout the body, is comprised of naturally synthesized cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes that control the synthesis and degredation of cannaboinoids.
Author: K. Mackie
Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do, Journal of Neuroendocrinology, May, 2008.
Alzheimer's is associated with accumulation of beta-amyloid protein, failure of the signaling capacity of the tau protein (abundant in the central nervous system), inflammation of the neural system, over-stimulation of brain cells causing cell death, and free radical accumulation causing oxidative stress. These hallmarks not only cause brain cell death but damage communication between brain cells. Brain cells contain cannabinoid receptors (that react to THC-like components produced by the brain) which are found to be damaged in Alzheimer's patients. The inability of these receptors to react to the THC-like components may be one contributing cause of Alzheimer's.
The researchers conclude therefore that treatment with cannabinoids, naturally derived from marijuana, may be helpful in treating Alzheimer's Disease.
Researchers: V.A. Campbell, A. Gowran
Published: Alzheimer's disease; taking the edge off with cannabinoids?, British Journal of Pharmacolory, November 2007.