We’re currently experiencing the second recreational marijuana awakening – this time in a legal way – but researchers are also working hard at discovering the medical benefits of its compounds.
According to a new study, marijuana could delay and keep at bay Alzheimer’s disease and its damaging effects on the brain. In spite of the promising nature of this news, it is yet premature to claim that pot has the power to prevent age-related brain disorders.
A team at the Salk Institute has proved that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main compounds found in marijuana, is an active contributor to the elimination of amyloid beta, the toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings could offer new insight into this neurological disorder and the role of inflammation. In turn, further research could pave the way to new and more efficient drugs.
However, take this research with a spoonful of salt and put the pipe down. Researchers noted that the protective effects of marijuana were tested on lab-grown neurons, which means they’re not yet sure if the same effects apply on living human beings.
At the same time, the study did not focus on the fact that marijuana could have negative effects on the aging brain, so it’s still too early to claim pot could miraculously cure Alzheimer’s, or even just protect it from the disease.
Even though previous research had already shown that cannabinoids, also found in marijuana, could protect the brain, this new study is “the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” explained lead author David Schubert.
These toxins are believed to greatly contribute to the development of damaging plaque in the brain, but scientists are still searching for the exact role played by amyloid beta in the process.
In the experiment, Schubert’s team used nerve cells altered to produce high amounts of amyloid beta. When left untreated, the cells would inflame and lead to higher rates of death.
However, exposing the cells to cannabinoids caused the levels of amyloid beta proteins to be reduced. Neurons were able to survive thanks to the consequent disappearance of the inflammation. It seemed as if the compounds found in marijuana were protecting the cells from dying.
Alzheimer’s might be stove off by pot, but researchers also need to be mindful of its negative effects.
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