Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of premature senility.
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia among the elderly, and with the ever-increasing size of this population, cases of Alzheimer’s disease are expected to triple over the next 50 years. Consequently, the development of treatments that slow or halt the disease progression have become imperative to both improve the quality of life for patients and reduce the health care costs attributable to Alzheimer’s disease.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
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,” says Salk Professor David Schubert.
Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology
Cannabinoids, the active components of marijuana and their analogs, exert a wide spectrum of central and peripheral effects by activating specific cannabinoid receptors, two of which have been well characterized to date: CB1 and CB2
CB1 receptors are found in high density in the nervous system, in which they mediate cannabinoid psychoactivity, and all types of neural cells express them. Thus, in addition to being present in neurons, CB1 receptors exist in astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes.
In contrast, the CB2 receptor is considered to be expressed solely in cells and organs of the immune system and is unrelated to cannabinoid psychoactivity.
There are also reports on the existence of CB2 receptors in microglia and on cannabinoids affecting migration, as well as nitric oxide and cytokine production in microglial cell cultures.
Cannabinoids combine both anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective actions so can be used as a therapeutic approach.