Researchers, from the Salk Institute labs in San Diego, discovered that the main psychoactive compound in marijuana—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—and a few other active compounds remove amyloid beta proteins from lab-grown neurons. Amyloid is the toxic protein known to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The compounds also significantly reduced cellular inflammation, an underlying factor in the progression of the disease.
This isn’t the first study to research whether the active compounds in cannabis might play a role in battling Alzheimer’s, but it’s the first to find a double-tap effect against both amyloid beta proteins and inflammation.
“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” said Professor David Schubert, senior author of the study, in a Salk Institute press release.
The brain produces its own endocannabinoids, which play a signaling role between cells, but also seem to protect nerve cells from inflammatory amyloid damage. THC in cannabis activates the same receptors as the body’s endocannabinoids.