There is an active compound in marijuana that has been somewhat revolutionary in the treatment of many problems, and now it looks like it could help with Alzheimer's. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) promotes the removal of the amyloid beta protein, which is thought to speed up the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
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"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," says one of the team, David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California.
Schubert and his team tested the effects of THC in the lab. THC has been linked to pain relief as well as the psychological effects of marijuana. It has been used to treat everything from HIV and epilepsy to PTSD and strokes. In fact, is has been so successful that many scientists have been trying to find ways to produce synthetic versions.
The compound passes through the lungs and into the bloodstream, where it attaches to the cannabinoid receptor (CB) 1 and 2, according to the study published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease.
Within the brain, the receptors trigger the neurons attached to memory, thinking, coordination, and time perception.
It also helps to clear out the toxic plaques of amyloid beta. No one is sure if that is what causes Alzheimer's, but it is as good of a guess as any.
Amyloid plaques sit in the brain and produce a sticky type of protein that causes problems with memory and sometimes functioning. Many people believe that it is the result of inflammation, or at least that inflammation makes it worse.
"Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer's disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves," says one of the team, Antonio Currais. "When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying."
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It is exciting, but it will need a lot of testing before anyone can determine whether or not it is actually effective. Once that is determined, it may be time to try to work around the government.