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Thursday, August 28, 2014

THC May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...
As states become more tolerant of marijuana it has opened the doors for researchers across the country to conduct studies with the substance. One such study has found that low levels of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), a compound found in marijuana, may slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease, reports Science Daily.

Neuroscience researchers at the University of South Florida conducted experiments using a cellular model of Alzheimer's disease. Their findings indicate that low doses of THC may reduce the production of amyloid beta, a protein which can be found in most aging brains. The abnormal accumulation of the amyloid beta protein is believed to be one of the pathological hallmarks of early Alzheimer’s disease.

"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," said study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy.

"Decreased levels of amyloid beta means 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."

Scientists have commonly viewed THC as a cause of brain memory loss, but the new research suggests that the therapeutic benefits outweigh the older views on the substance. Compounds in marijuana have also been found to reduce seizures among the severely epileptic.

"While we are still far from a consensus, this study indicates that THC and THC-related compounds may be of therapeutic value in Alzheimer's disease," said Neel Nabar, a study co-author and MD/PhD candidate. "Are we advocating that people use illicit drugs to prevent the disease? No. 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."

The findings were reported online in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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