An active compound in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been found to promote the removal of toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which are thought to kickstart the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The finding supports the results of previous studies that found evidence of the protective effects of cannabinoids, including THC, on patients with neurodegenerative disease.

“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 colleagues tested the effects of THC on human neurons grown in the lab that mimic the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

If you’re not familiar with this special little compound, it’s not only responsible for the majority of marijuana’s psychological effects – including the high – thanks to its natural pain-relieving properties, it’s also been touted as an effective treatment for the symptoms of everything from HIV and chemotherapy to chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, and stroke.

In fact, THC appears to be such an amazing medical agent, researchers are working on breeding genetically modified yeast that can produce it way more efficiently than it would be to make synthetic versions.

The compound works by passing from the lungs to the bloodstream, where it attaches to two types of receptors, cannabinoid receptor (CB) 1 and 2, which are found on cell surfaces all over the body.

In the brain, these receptors are most concentrated in neurons associated with pleasure, memory, thinking, coordination and time perception, and usually bind with a class of lipid molecules called endocannabinoids that are produced by the body during physical activity to promote cell-to-cell signalling in the brain.

But THC can also bind to them in much the same way, and when they do, they start messing with your brain’s ability to communicate with itself. The can be a good and a bad thing, because while you might forget something important or suddenly be incapable of swinging a baseball bat, you’ll probably feel amazing, and want to eat all the snacks:

Over the years, research has suggested that by binding to these receptors, THC could be having another effect on ageing brains, because it appears to helps the body clear out the toxic accumulations – or ‘plaques’ – of amyloid beta.

No one’s entirely sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s thought to result from a build-up of two types of lesions: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules – a sticky type of protein that easily clumps together – and neurofibrillary tangles are caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass in the neurons.

It’s not clear why these lesions begin to appear in the brain, but studies have linked inflammation in the brain tissue to the proliferation of plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. So if we can find something that eases brain inflammation while at the same time encourages the body to clear out these lesions, we could be on the way to finding the first effective treatment for Alzheimer’s ever.

Back in 2006, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute found that THC inhibits the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that produces them, and now Schubert and his team have demonstrated that it can also eliminate a dangerous inflammatory response from the nerve cells, ensuring their survival.

“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.”

It’s exciting stuff, but it’s so far only been demonstrated in neurons in the lab, so the next step will be for Schubert and his team to observe the link between THC and reduced inflammation and plaque build-up in a clinical trial. And they’ve reportedly already found a drug candidate called J147 that appears to have the same effects as THC, so this might be the way they can test the effects of THC without the government getting in the way.

The results have been published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease.

48 COMMENTS

  1. What about all of us with lupus,fibromyalgia, COPD,severe joint pain, and have to rely on pain medication, which as everyone knows ,is constipating..bad..! Why can we, with painful diseases , not at least have it legalized and accessible to help us? Every healthy person see the word cannabis think ” oh,no, that’s marijuana..we can’t legalize that ” ! Well, I hope you never have to experience years of worsening pain, having to depend on pain meds ! I’ve tried every kind of anti-inflammatory meds, but can’t take because of raising blood pressure ! Do you think I would try to obtain this if I hadn’t tried everything I ( and the doctors ) have suggested! Pharmaceuticals will never allow this cannabis to be legalized, because they will loose their “shirts” ! Could someone please help us that need this for pain relief! Is the rest of my life going to be in more and more pain ! What quality of life is that! It would be so good to feel good with no pain ! This has been going on for years !!! Please, someone speak up for us and support our cause ! We need someone to help us!

  2. I’ve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or blog
    posts on this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this
    web site. Reading this information So i am glad to express that I have an incredibly excellent
    uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed.
    I such a lot indisputably will make sure to do not fail to remember
    this web site and provides it a glance on a constant basis.

  3. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Cheers

  4. You really make it seem so easy together with your presentation but
    I to find this matter to be really something that I believe I’d
    by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely
    huge for me. I’m taking a look forward to your next publish,
    I will try to get the grasp of it!

  5. I’ve been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or
    weblog posts on this sort of house . Exploring in Yahoo I at
    last stumbled upon this site. Reading this information So i am glad to convey
    that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I found out exactly what I needed.
    I most for sure will make certain to do not forget this website and
    give it a look regularly.

  6. Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your
    website on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you present here and can’t
    wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded
    on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, great blog!

  7. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so
    much, However I am having troubles with your RSS.
    I don’t understand why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody having identical
    RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond?
    Thanx!!

  8. Wow, incredible blog layout! How lengthy have you
    been blogging for? you make running a blog look easy.
    The full look of your website is wonderful, let alone the content!

  9. Hello I am so grateful I found your web site, I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Bing
    for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say kudos for
    a fantastic post and a all round entertaining blog (I
    also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go
    through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it
    and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the excellent job.

  10. My spouse and I stumbled over here coming from a different web address
    and thought I should check things out. I like what I
    see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking over your
    web page again.

  11. I am now not sure the place you are getting your information, however great topic.
    I must spend a while finding out much more or figuring out more.
    Thanks for magnificent info I used to be searching for this information for my mission.

  12. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have understand
    your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely magnificent.

    I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it smart.
    I can not wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful site.

  13. Hello! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!

    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Hello there! This post could not be written much
    better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I’ll send this
    post to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a great read.
    I appreciate you for sharing!

  15. Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?

    I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would really
    like to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would
    appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  16. Wonderful website. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to a few friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And of course, thanks in your sweat!

  17. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website
    before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back
    frequently!

  18. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a friend who has been conducting a little research
    on this. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for
    him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this matter
    here on your site.

  19. After I initially commented I appear to have clicked
    on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with
    the exact same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service?

    Many thanks!

  20. Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that
    would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  21. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Thanks a lot!

  22. Thanks for any other magnificent article. Where else could anybody get
    that type of information in such a perfect means of writing?
    I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such
    information.

  23. Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored at work so I decided
    to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.
    I really like the information you provide here and can’t wait to take a look
    when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, amazing site!

LEAVE A REPLY