Extremely low levels of the compound in marijuana known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, may slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a recent study from neuroscientists shows.
Researchers from the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute showed that extremely low doses of THC reduce the production of amyloid beta, found in a soluble form in most aging brains, and prevent abnormal accumulation of this protein — a process considered one of the pathological hallmarks evident early in the memory-robbing disease. These low concentrations of THC also selectively enhanced mitochondrial function, which is needed to help supply energy, transmit signals, and maintain a healthy brain.
“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,” 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.”
The researchers point out that at the low doses studied, the therapeutic benefits of THC appear to prevail over the associated risks of THC toxicity and memory impairment.
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