Cannabinoids remove plaque-forming Alzheimer's proteins from brain cells.
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Medicine
In a manuscript published in June 2016's Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, Salk team studied nerve cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta to mimic aspects of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that high levels of amyloid beta were associated with cellular inflammation and higher rates of neuron death. They demonstrated that exposing the cells to THC reduced amyloid beta protein levels and eliminated the inflammatory response from the nerve cells caused by the protein, thereby allowing the nerve cells to survive.
"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."
Brain cells have switches known as receptors that can be activated by endocannabinoids, a class of lipid molecules made by the body that are used for intercellular signaling in the brain. The psychoactive effects of marijuana are caused by THC, a molecule similar in activity to endocannabinoids that can activate the same receptors. Physical activity results in the production of endocannabinoids and some studies have shown that exercise may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Schubert emphasized that his team's findings were conducted in exploratory laboratory models, and that the use of THC-like compounds as a therapy would need to be tested in clinical trials.
In separate but related research, his lab found an Alzheimer's drug candidate called J147 that also removes amyloid beta from nerve cells and reduces the inflammatory response in both nerve cells and the brain. It was the study of J147 that led the scientists to discover that endocannabinoids are involved in the removal of amyloid beta and the reduction of inflammation.
Here's the paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/npjamd201612
Amyloid beta causes inflammation in neural cells that contributes to Alzheimer's.
Anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid that promotes cell survival and opposes amyloid beta.
Anandamide and THC display similar effects in preventing amyloid beta accumulation and toxicity.