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Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. It’s one cause of dementia.

DALL·E 2024-02-01 12.50.00 - An illustration of a person in a state of confusion or forget

Research Summary:

Alzheimer's disease is a common brain disorder that leads to memory loss, confusion, changes in mood and behavior, and eventually the loss of physical functions, often resulting in death within 3 to 9 years after it's diagnosed. It costs society a lot of money, and despite a lot of research, there's no cure or treatment that can slow it down, although some treatments can help with symptoms for a while. Alzheimer’s disease involves the buildup of harmful substances in the brain, overactive brain immune cells, and the loss of connections between brain cells. Mostly, we don't know what causes it, except in about 2% of cases where it's due to a specific gene that runs in families and starts at an early age.

Research is exploring whether compounds from the cannabis plant or drugs that affect the cannabis-like system in the body could help with the symptoms or even the progression of Alzheimer's disease in people.

In studies before testing on humans, CBD was found to help immune cells in the brain clear out harmful plaques. It also protected the brain by preventing damage from harmful oxygen particles and slowed down the worsening of diseases. In mice, CBD preserved memory, reduced anxiety and fear, and helped with memory problems. It also made thinking clearer, reduced anxiety, boosted the immune system, and helped cells remove and recycle damaged parts. CBD even reduced the severity of symptoms and mental decline in mice with a version of Alzheimer's disease and changed the activity of certain genes related to the disease. THC, another compound, slowed down memory loss in mice, and with regular use, it lessened plaque build-up and improved memory. Small amounts of THC lowered signs of the disease, and in computer models, THC made the plaques less stable. CBD also helped prevent the clumping of harmful proteins in a lab model of Alzheimer's, and nine other non-intoxicating cannabis compounds protected nerve cells, reduced swelling, prevented cell damage, and helped maintain cellular health and energy production.

The endocannabinoid system is a promising area for Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Studies show that stimulating the CB1 receptor in rats improves brain function by reducing damage from oxygen and promoting the growth of new brain cells. In mice, reducing the breakdown of anandamide, a molecule in the body, decreases brain inflammation and helps protect the brain and maintain learning and memory in rats with dementia. Also, a medication that stops the breakdown of two different brain molecules reduced brain inflammation, damage from oxygen, and harmful brain plaques in mice. Genetically, issues with the messaging system of endocannabinoids may indicate the likelihood of the disease. Especially important is the CB2 receptor, which has been extensively studied.

Various cannabinoids and related compounds have demonstrated beneficial effects. PEA appears to aid through brain astrocytes, and in an Alzheimer's disease tissue model, PEA and luteolin (a commonly paired flavonoid) reduced brain inflammation. In a separate cell model, PEA safeguarded neurons and enhanced their longevity. Certain terpenes found in cannabis also offered protection against harmful neurofibrillary tangles. Furthermore, the diabetes medication metformin may support neurogenesis and spatial memory by regulating MAGL.

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