Cannabinoids, Like Those in Marijuana, May Protect Alzheimer’s Patients from Plaque Buildup

Cannabinoids, Like Those in Marijuana, May Protect Alzheimer’s Patients from Plaque Buildup
Alzheimer's disease has been described in medical literature for more than a century, but still has no effective treatments. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, report finding evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of several physiologically active chemical compounds in marijuana, can promote cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer's disease. While these exploratory studies were conducted with neurons grown in a laboratory, the researchers suggest they may offer insights into the role inflammation plays in Alzheimer's disease, and even point the way to developing therapeutic agents to treat this complex disorder. In a paper published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, the Salk research team describes how they studied nerve cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta to mimic aspects of Alzheimer's disease. The paper, "Amyloid proteotoxicity initiates an inflammatory response blocked by cannabinoids" (Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, 2016; 2: 16012 DOI: 10.1038/npjamd.2016.12), notes that it is well-known that amyloid beta begins accumulating within nerve cells of the aging brain well before Alzheimer symptoms or plaques are evident, but the mechanistic relationship between intracellular amyloid, aging, and neurodegeneration is not well understood. (Amyloid beta is a major component of the plaque deposits.)
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