Marijuana can possibly be a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, say neuroscientists at the University of South Florida.
Researchers found that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound found in marijuana can slow down the progress of Alzheimer's disease.
According to their findings, THC can lessen the production of amyloid beta, a protein found in a soluble form in most aging brains. Furthermore, it can also stop abnormal accumulation of amyloid beta. Researchers said this is important because the buildup of amyloid beta is believed to be one of the pathological hallmarks of early neurodegenerative disease.
Apart from this, researchers also found that low levels of the marijuana compound improve mitochondrial function which in turn improves energy supply energy, transmits signals and in general improves brain health.
"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," study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy, said in a press release.
"Decreased levels of amyloid beta mean less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future," he added.
The doses examined in the study would not intensify the risk of THC toxicity and memory impairment, the researchers noted.
Neel Nabar, the study co-author said that the findings of the study show that THC related compounds may be of therapeutic value in Alzheimer's disease. He also emphasized that the research in no way promotes the use of illicit drugs to prevent the disease. "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," he explained.
In another recent research, scientists found that a particular compound in pomegranate slows down the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers at the University of Huddersfield, U.K., found that punicalagin, a phenolic compound found in pomegranate, stopped inflammation in the specialized cells of brain called micrologia and prevented the destruction of brain cells.
The findings of the current study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.