Marijuana to treat Alzheimer's

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2 Jul 2016 - General

Beta-amyloid is considered a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease; the protein clumps together in the brain of people with the condition, forming plaques that disrupt communication between neurons in the brain, which leads to symptoms associated with Alzheimer's, such as impaired memory.

Preventing beta-amyloid accumulation in the brain might seem like an obvious way to tackle Alzheimer's, but because researchers are still unclear of the exact role the protein plays in the disease process, achieving such a feat is easier said than done.

To find out more about the role of beta-amyloid in Alzheimer's, senior author Prof. David Schubert, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, and colleagues modified nerve cells to produce high levels of the protein.The team found that increased beta-amyloid production led to increased expression of pro-inflammatory proteins in nerve cells, causing inflammation and nerve cell death.

They found that marijuana has a compound that is similar to naturally produced endocannabinoids and activates the same receptors and therefoe is able to reduced beta-amyloid levels and eradicated the inflammatory response to the protein, which prevented nerve cell apoptosis. Clinical trials are pending. It would be exciting to see how much of the effect of marijuana can have on the reversal of the debilitating symptoms sufferers from Alzheimer's live with. 

Reference: Amyloid poteotoxicity initiates an inflammtory response blocked by cannabinoids, David Schubert et al., Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, doi:10.1038/npjamd.2016.12, published online 23 June 2016.

That’s a really interesting study. Marijuana sure sounds like the fashionable chemical of the decade. If further studies do find it is disease modifying, I would be very interested to see how governments and legislative bodies make it legal. But it is really hope-giving, considering that there are only 2 classes of approved medications for Alzheimer’s now: 1) Cholinesterase inhibitors that work by slowing down the breakdown of Ach e.g. Donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine. 2) Memantine, ...
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