Alzheimer’s and Medicinal Cannabis

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What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease whose production mechanism is still discussed and controversial. A theory that has been widely accepted to define the disease is the deposition of the β-amyloid protein (Aβ) in various regions of the brain. The accumulation of this protein produces inflammation in small areas, which eventually leads to neuronal cell death and consequently causes the alteration of the flow of neurotransmitters and the loss of efficient synapses [1]. These pathological processes are believed to result in symptoms such as memory deficit and cognitive and motor impairment[1].

It can appear earlier (before the age of 60), although this condition is less frequent than the other.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the phase between normal forgetfulness of people’s ageing and Alzheimer’s. However, not all people who have mild cognitive impairment end up developing Alzheimer’s, but it is believed that a large number of people begin with MCI before the disease is initiated.

Effects of cannabinoids on Alzheimer’s

Several studies show the usefulness of the neuroprotective effects that cannabinoids can offer in Alzheimer’s disease. The protection of the neurons, against the deposit of the amyloid material, reduces the progression of the cellular degeneration which helps to preserve cognitive and motor capacities, thus improving the quality of life of the patient.

Pre-clinical studies suggest that the endocannabinoid system protects against extoxicity (excess release of neurotransmitters), oxidative stress and inflammation, which are key processes in the development of Alzheimer’s disease[2]. It has also been shown that endocannabinoids decrease the permeability of the neuronal membrane, which hinders the entry of the β-amyloid protein and avoids the death of neurons [2]Cannabidiol (CBD)due to its anti-inflammatory properties, can attenuate the neuroinflammatory responses produced by the protein cluster [3].

Research into treatments for Alzheimer’s with Medicinal Cannabis

Recent studies on the therapeutic strategies of this disease have focused on the neuro-protective properties of cannabinoids, which could delay the neurodegeneration in progress caused by the disease. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities of cannabis derivatives, such as CBD oil, contain useful properties in the treatment of Alzheimer’s (and other neurodegenerative diseases) that may delay symptoms typical of illnesses like dementia.

Several studies have attributed to cannabidiol a neuronal protective effect by reducing over-excitation of neurons, helping to preserve cognitive abilities and reducing the progression of damage to the nervous system. All these properties make CBD a good neuroprotective agent, without the toxicity rates or danger of overdose associated with the prolonged use of conventional drugs.

Bibliography on Alzheimer’s and the use of Medicinal Cannabis

[1]Benito, C., Nunez, E., Pazos, M. R., Tolon, R. M. and others. (2007). The endocannabinoid system and Alzheimer’s disease. Mol.Neurobiol. 36: 75-81.

[2] Noonan, J., Tanveer, R., Klompas, A., Gowran, A. and others. (2010). Endocannabinoids prevent beta-amyloidmediated lysosomal destabilization in cultured neurons. J.Biol.Chem. 285: 38543-38554.

[3] Esposito, G., Scuderi, C., Savani, C., Steardo, L., Jr. and others. (2007). Cannabidiol in vivo blunts beta-amyloid induced neuroinflammation by suppressing IL-1beta and iNOS expression. Br.J.Pharmacol. 151: 1272- 1279.

[4]  Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology by Cannabinoids: Neuroprotection Mediated by Blockade of Microglial Activation. The Journal of Neuroscience, 23 February 2005, 25(8): 1904-1913; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4540-04.2005.

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