Saturday, March 24, 2007
Pot For Alzheimer's?
An enzyme responsible for the malformed proteins characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease may be better suppressed by marijuana than by any other known treatment for the brain disorder, scientists say.
Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience and Molecular Pharmaceutics showed that rats injected with the amyloid protein that forms Alzheimer’s plaques showed characteristic activation of immune cells and resulting inflammation and memory impairment, but animals receiving an additional infusion of cannabinoids show greatly reduced inflammation in the brain.
Recently, researchers at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California, showed that THC reduced Alzheimer’s-style clumping of proteins significantly better than donepezil and tacrine, two common treatment medications for Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation of the Alzheimer’s kind leads to memory loss. Old lab rats get progressively worse at learning to solve mazes, but an injection of cannabinoids improves their learning rate markedly. “They gave them a relatiely low dose, even for a rat,” Ken Mackie of the University of Washington told NewScientist News Service. Mackie added that this made the results “more promising.”
The key to the puzzle is the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is suppressed by Alzheimer’s treatment drugs--and by THC, but at vastly lower concentrations. In a paradoxical turn of events, the drug most noted for it’s effects on short-term memory may one day be given to the elderly as a medication for combatting age-related memory impairment.
--Choi, Charles Q., “Marijuana’s Key Ingredient Might Fight Alzheimer’s.” Health SciTech. 5 October 2006. http://www.LiveScience.com.
--”Marijuana may block Alzheimer’s.” BBC News. February 22, 2005. http://news.bb.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/4286435.stm
--Khamsi, Roxanne. “Hope for cannabis-based drug for Alzheimer’s.” NewScientist.com News Service. 18 October 2006. http://www.newscientist.com.