Researchers at the University of South Florida have reportedly discovered that a compound found in marijuana can help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Specifically, USF neuroscientists found that low levels of the compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can help slow the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers believe THC has an impact on Alzheimer’s because it targets the production of amyloid beta, which can play a key role in robbing Alzheimer’s patients of their memories.
According to the study’s lead author, Chuanhai Cao, this is an important discovery that could drastically change how we think about treating Alzheimer’s disease.
“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 by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” Cao said.
“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 have acknowledged that THC can be toxic when consumed in high levels. But they found that using small amounts of THC can have a visible impact on memory impairment.
Study co-author Neel Nabar also wants to make it clear that his team isn’t telling Alzheimer’s patients to immediately seek out marijuana.
“Are we advocating that people use illicit drugs to prevent the disease? No … However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” Nabar said.