Los Angeles: An active compound in marijuana can contribute to the removal of toxic proteins in the brain, which are thought to kickstart the progression of Alzheimer's disease, a new study has found.
Published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease on Friday, the study said tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in pot can help to remove toxic clumps of amyloid beta from nerve cells, Xinhua news agency reported.
The finding supports the results of previous studies that cannabinoids have protective effects on patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
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But besides it, the study, carried out by the California-based Salk Institute for Biological Studies, is likely to be the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells, led researcher David Schubert said.
Amyloid beta is considered a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The toxic protein accumulates in people's brain, forming plaques and disrupting the communication between nerve cells.
To find out more about the role of amyloid beta in the disease, the scientists modified nerve cells to produce high level of the protein.
They found that increased amyloid beta production led to increased expression of pro-inflammatory proteins in nerve cells, causing inflammation and inducing deaths of neurons.
Then, the team applied THC to nerve cells with high amyloid beta production, finding that the marijuana compound reduce the protein level and eradicate the inflammatory response to the protein, which ensure nerve cell survival.
Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer's, researcher Antonio Currais said.
It became clear that THC-like compounds can be involved in protecting the cells from dying.
Alzheimer's disease, a common cause of dementia, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time.