THC In Cannabis Has Potential Therapeutic Effects On Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists at the University of South Florida's Byrd Alzheimer's Institute have investigated the potential role of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a major component of marijuana, on Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology. What is most commonly known as a recreational substance has demonstrated its potential in ameliorating AD and other neurological diseases, perhaps because our bodies produce the substance naturally (endocannabinoids) and have receptors that naturally respond to it.
Neuroscientists involved in the experiments, which were conducted in a cellular model of the disease, were surprised that very low doses of THC were able to reduce the production of amyloid beta, the most significant abnormal accumulation in aging brains and the memory-robbing hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. THC was also found to selectively enhance mitochondrial function, needed to help supply energy, transmit signals, and maintain a healthy brain.
"THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer's pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function," said lead author of the study, Chuanhai Cao.
Dr. Cao reported that the concentrations of THC used in the study were at the nanomolar (10-9) level, a level so low it would not cause any adverse effects.
Neel Nabar, a study co-author, says the study does not support the use of illicit drugs. "It's important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn't mean it can be safely used by anyone. However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease."
The group is now testing a potential AD drug cocktail containing THC and other drugs.