Scientists at the Salk Institute have found that cannabinoids in marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), remove plaque-causing deposits of amyloid beta proteins in nerve cells in the aging brain.
While the exact mechanism that triggers Alzheimer’s Disease is not well understood, it is highly suspected that excessive levels of amyloid beta proteins lead to cellular inflammation in the brain and the death of neurons. Previously, it was thought that inflammation in the brain was initiated by immune cells in the brain and not nerve cells.
The researchers learned that introducing THC to brain cells decreased levels of amyloid beta protein, an event that permitted nerve cells to escape the inflammatory response and continue to function. Previous research conducted at the Scripps Research Institute showed that THC inhibits the production of the enzyme responsible for amyloid plaque formation. The scientists note that research needs to move from in vitro studies in the lab to clinical trials – but without getting hassled by the government. And that’s where it gets really interesting…
In 2011, in a different study, the same research team discovered what they refer to as a drug candidate that exhibits similar neuroprotective effects as THC. The drug, dubbed J147, is a modified version of curcumin, the active component in turmeric root.
Currais A, Quehenberger O, Armando AM, et al. Amyloid proteotoxicity initiates an inflammatory response blocked by cannabinoids. Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. https://www.nature.com/articles/npjamd201612