Cannabis may be focal in future treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new data released by the Salk Institute.
Alzheimer’s disease is a terrifying disease and one of the most common forms of dementia, accounting for about 50 to 70% of all cases. Early symptoms revolve around difficulty handling new information and forming memories around new events, and later involve horrifying hallucinations and other major cognitive difficulties. These are caused by its pathological nature: the build-up of neurotoxic amyloid beta causing the formation of plaque that impairs neural interactions.
Enter the Salk Institute
The Salk Institute was founded by Jonas Salk, in 1963 under the name “The Salk Institute for Biological Studies” . With a long track record of research into immunology, cancer, neuroscience and more, they’re an authoritative voice within the American scientific community. Supported primarily by government grants, as well as The March of Dimes, they are a fairly independent association able to publish cutting edge research such as this without fear of reprisal from backers.
In the study they recently published, they found that the primary marker of Alzheimer’s progression, amyloid beta and its associated plaque, were markedly decreased by the administration of tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient within marijuana. This is astounding news because, as the senior author of the paper David Schubert puts it:
“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,”
Affecting over five million Americans, with these numbers projected to triple within the next fifty years, it’s becoming paramount to solve this before it becomes an even larger crisis.
“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” says Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher in Schubert’s laboratory and first author of the paper. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”
The press release hints that they intend on bringing THC-like compounds into clinical trials for more extensive evaluation. Ideally this will culminate in therapeutic methods to alleviate the suffering of tens of millions worldwide.
For more on this discovery, check out the Salk Institute’s press release here! For more on recreational drugs becoming therapeutic tools, check out our article on magic mushrooms and depression! Or, if you want to change gears, why not try learning about breatharianism?