Weed scientists from two facilities in La Jolla, California have been focusing on the potential of cannabis in helping patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and sports injuries, according to La Jolla Light.
A study by the team of Pamela Maher, head of Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, found that cannabinol (CBN) “protects neurons from oxidative stress and cell death.” According to the study published in Free Radical Biology, oxidative damage is one of the biggest culprits in cell death, which is one of the contributing factors to Alzheimer’s.
CBN is one of the many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It bears similarities with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but is not known to be psychoactive. Unlike THC, CBN receives less stigma and regulation, especially from the Food and Drug Administration, which makes it a more viable treatment compared to THC.
Postdoctoral fellow and team member Zhibin Liang explained, “CBN is not a controlled substance like THC… and evidence has shown that CBN is safe in animals and humans. And because CBN works independently of cannabinoid receptors, CBN could also work in a wide variety of cells with ample therapeutic potential.”
Maher said, “This discovery could one day lead to the development of new therapeutics for treating disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s disease.”
This finding came after Maher’s team realized that CBN offers neuroprotective properties without having a clear idea as to how it does. The new study explained that CBN protects the mitochondria in neurons. This can help maintain the ideal function of brain cells.
Cell damage through oxidation results in the curling up of the mitochondria, a feature that has also been observed in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients.
So far, the team performed an experiment on cells without mitochondria, in which CBN did not show the same effect. According to La Jolla Light, this confirms that the protective property of CBN comes in relation to the mitochondria.
Maher explained, “We were able to show that maintenance of mitochondrial function was specifically required for the protective effects of the compound.”
Cannabis has shown potential in treating Alzheimer’s patients and scientists are working on finding out more about its potential. Past discoveries about the cannabis and Alzheimer’s connection revealed that cannabidiol (CBD) can also help in treating patients.
A study by a team at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University found that CBD can help in “[restoring] the function of two proteins key to reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and improves cognition in an experimental model of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s.”
In the research, it was shown that applying high doses of CBD can increase IL-33 and TREM2 levels, up to seven- and tenfold, respectively. Both proteins are essential in detecting and consuming brain plaques that contribute to brain degeneration resulting in Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s patients have been observed to have low levels of both proteins.
These developments in cannabis research in relation to Alzheimer’s have made researchers optimistic about the potential of cannabinoids and the plant in treating the disease.