Alzheimer’s Syndrome and the role of Cannabis

Alzheimer’s Syndrome and the role of Cannabis

In today’s article we are discussing the topic of Alzheimer’s Disease and how therapeutic cannabis is able to improve the patient’s life, proving its effectiveness in contrasting some mechanisms characterizing this pathology.  

Several studies demonstrated how and specifically the cannabinoids thc and cbd, can be effective in improving the quality of life of patients affected by neurodegenerative disorders.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease leads to a degeneration which progressively impair the brain cells, rendering the patient incapable of conducting a normal life.
It is the most common form of degenerative and progressively invalidating dementia, which in almost all cases has its onset in presenile age, over 65, but can also manifest earlier.

Among the most common symptoms mentioned we can find the difficulty remembering recent events, accompanied by symptoms of aphasia, disorientation, sudden changes in mood, depression, incapability of taking care of oneself, behavioural problems. As the disease progresses, the basic mental capacities tend to be lost.

The disease is associated to the formation of amyloid plaque (accumulations of the amyloid protein) and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, at the present moment the treatments utilized offer modest beneficial effects and can only partially slow down the evolution of the disease. For now treatments stopping the evolution have not yet been identified.  

In Italy about 492 000 persons suffer from the disease while worldwide 26.6 million individuals are affected by it, according to a study of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

According to the estimates, in 2050 the over 65s represent 34% of the population, the predictions for the coming years indicate an increase in the number of cases, which is making our Country one of the most affected by this pathology.
Several scientific studies have demonstrated how Cannabis, an in particular single cannabinoids like THC and CBD, in single extracts or in combinations, can prove to be effective in curing and contrasting Alzheimer’s Disease.

The 2016 study: thc and the reduction of inflammation of the nervous cells

A 2016 study  conducted at the Salk Institute of San Diego, California, in collaboration with the National Institute of Health, the agency of the Ministry of Health and of the Alzheimer Association, presents an interesting mechanism of action of  Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The research group coordinated by David Schubert studied the nervous cells, which, altered by the disease, produce high levels of beta-amyloid and discovered that high levels of beta amyloid were associated with cell inflammation and higher rates of neuron death. With this evidence the researchers proceeded further and demonstrated that the exposure of the cells to THC drastically reduced the levels of the beta-amyloid protein and eliminated the inflammatory response of the nervous cells caused by this protein, allowing the cells to survive.

The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids and cannabis extracts therefore play an important role also in this field, to an extent that it inspires new clinical studies each day.

The 2010 study: cbd and the stabilisation of cellular survival processes

CBD, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, could alleviate the neuro-inflammatory responses produced by the accumulation of the protein, from which the disease stems. The loss of neuronal cells is at the basis of the pathological decline of the cognitive capacities of memory associated to Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2010 study conducted by researchers of the Department of Physiology of the Trinity College in Dublin identified the neuroprotectant role of endocannabinoids in some brain pathologies, included cell death through apoptosis.

The study supplied the evidence that the endocannabinoid system can stabilize the lysosomes against the  permeabilization caused by the beta-amyloid protein, and contribute as a consequence to cell survival. According to the Irish researchers, cannabis might just have all potentials to be utilized the same way as a neuroprotectant.

The 2014 study: thc can slow down or arrest the evolution of Alzheimer’s Syndrome

A 2014 study conducted by the team of the Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute of the University of South Florida (USF) demonstrated how also extremely low levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – one of the active principles of the cannabis plant – are capable of arresting or in any case slowing down the evolution of the disease. The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer, identified the mechanism with which THC helps to reduce the production of beta-amyloid, the well-known peptide composing the senile plaques present in the brain: one of the best-known characteristics of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thc acts by avoiding the anomalous accumulation of beta-amyloid and fosters the transmission of nervous signals.  This research study should be viewed in the context of a clear branch of studies which aims at the assessment of the benefits of the cannabis plant for the prevention of this neurodegenerative pathology.

One of the first evidences was already supplied in 2005 by a research group in Madrid, which published a study in which the great potentialities of cannabis was pointed out in this respect. The data obtained in 2014 suggested how THC could impose itself increasingly as an extremely effective therapeutic treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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