Marijuana has been found to be immensely beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients. The active compounds in cannabis scrubbed away the plaque buildup in the brain that is associated with the neurodegenerative disease.
Researchers have discovered an effective weapon in marijuana to fight the buildup of amyloid beta, a type of plaque that increasingly deteriorates the connections between the cerebral neurons, affecting the mental faculties. The amyloid beta proteins start building up way before patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease start showing signs of the disease.
While clear indicators of the disease might take months or years to show, the proteins have already started to form plaque in the brain, say medical professionals. The toxic protein is the main component of plaques that form in the brain is widely considered a signature of the disease, and as such, its presence and build-up is indicative of the most common form of dementia, reported the Daily Mail.
Now scientists have been able to prove that exposure to certain compounds in marijuana can effectively cleanse the brain of the harmful amyloid beta cells, thereby improving the connections between the neurons and improving brain functions in the process. In essence, marijuana might be a powerful line of treatment to halt the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages and reverse its deteriorating effects on the brain, said Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.
“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.”
Researchers at the Salk Institute have uncovered new evidence supporting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, reported Gizmag. The researchers created synthetic human neurons in a lab and then modified them in such a way that they created the plaque buildup (comprised of proteins such as beta-amyloid). The researchers then exposed the neurons to controlled amounts of THC and other marijuana compounds.
The results of exposing brain neurons to marijuana were astounding. The active ingredients not only caused a rapid and consistent breakdown of protein buildup, commonly known as brain plaque, but also reduced the inflammation in the cells which are working in the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors. Inflammation of the cells is another side-effect of Alzheimer’s disease. While it is not harmful by itself, the inflammation doesn’t hinder the ability of neurons to communicate with each other correctly. Since there are hurdles in the communication, incorrect or garbled signals can cause the patient to develop memory problems.
Incidentally, marijuana’s effectiveness in treating cerebral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease has been demonstrated earlier. A pre-clinical experiment at the University of South Florida in 2014 proved low doses of THC effectively inhibited production of amyloid beta. Exactly how the amyloid beta proteins buildup in the brain or their precise role hasn’t been established. However, the plaque buildup isn’t just a byproduct of the disease, but it effectively worsens the condition. Hence, any treatment that tackles the plaque is a welcome addition to the line of treatments.
Previously, only mental exercises, meditation, and physical activity in general have been known to engage the neurons and help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, reported MSN. However, the new study has conclusively proven that marijuana, and more particularly THC, can have double benefits for the patients in treating at least two of the major symptoms associated with the disease.
Scientists working on finding links between marijuana and Alzheimer’s disease have cautioned that the study was conducted only on lab-grown cells, and further testing, including clinical trials, could prove the efficacy of using marijuana in treating the disease.
[Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images]