Research shows marijuana helps slow down plaque build-up
Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, California, found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound present in marijuana, helps slow down plaque build-up in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease. Not only did THC cause a breakdown of plaque build-up in the brain, it also reduced inflammation of nerve cells thus allowing neurons to communicate more effectively with one another.
A brief introduction to Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for almost 60-80% of dementia cases. Dementia is a general term used to signify loss of memory and other intellectual abilities. Although memory loss is mild in early stages, individuals lose their ability to carry on conversations or respond to their environment with late-stage Alzheimer's. There is no current cure for Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's patients worldwide
An estimated 47.5 million people suffer from dementia worldwide with an average of 7.7 million new cases every year. Alzheimer's, which is a form of dementia, makes up about 60-70% of dementia cases. In India itself, there are more than 10 million cases annually.
Plaque build-up, Tangles and Alzheimer's
The growth of two abnormal structures in the brain, called Plaques and Tangles, is associated with Alzheimer's. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment, called beta-amyloid, which build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibres of another protein called tau which build up inside nerve cells. Both of these are associated with damaging and killing nerve cells in the brain.
The study in brief
Researchers at the Salk Institute modified lab-grown human nerve cells to produce high levels of beta-amyloid, which consequently led to inflammation of neurons and nerve cell death. Then they subjected the neurons to certain amounts of THC. They observed that the THC reduced plaque build-up and inflammation by working naturally occurring endocannabinoid receptors in the brain. Human clinical trials are yet to be conducted.
Countries where marijuana consumption is legal
Despite alleged medical benefits of marijuana, there are only six countries in the world - Switzerland, Czech Republic, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina and Jamaica - where consumption of marijuana is legal. Although recreational use is legal in certain US states, it still remains illegal at large.