Scientists from the Salk Institute have found some preliminary evidence that suggests tetraydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids found in marijuana show signs of promoting the removal of amyloid beta—the toxic protein also known as the “plaque” associated with Alzheimer’s 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 Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.
It has long been known that amyloid beta accumulates within the nerve cells of the aging brain well before the appearance of Alzheimer's disease symptoms and plaques. Amyloid beta is a major component of the plaque deposits that are a hallmark of the disease. But the precise role of amyloid beta and the plaques it forms in the disease process remains unclear.
The researchers studied cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta and were able to expose those cells to THC, which in turn showed positive signs of reducing the amyloid protein levels as well as eliminating the inflammation associated with high levels of the protein present.
"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 Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher in Schubert's laboratory and first author of the paper. "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.”
While these are preliminary, results are promising and highlight the need for science to be allowed to further research marijuana and marijuana’s properties in the hopes of furthering science.