The key compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could be the key to new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. This is primarily because THC has the ability to block the formation of brain-clogging Alzheimer’s plaques better than present-day Alzheimer’s drugs.
In a finding coming from the lab of Kim Janda, PhD, director of the Worm Institute of Research and Medicine at Scripps Research Institute, it was revealed that THC blocks an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase that speeds the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“While we are certainly not advocating the use of illegal drugs, these findings offer convincing evidence that THC possesses remarkable inhibitory qualities, especially when compared to [Alzheimer's drugs] currently available to patients,” Janda says in a news release.
“In a test against propidium, one of the most effective inhibitors reported to date, THC blocked AChE-induced aggregation completely, while the propidium did not. Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” Janda added.
“Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“THC and its analogs may provide an improved [treatment for] both the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” the researchers conclude.
Other authors of the study, titled “A Molecular Link Between the Active Component of Marijuana and Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology,” include Lisa M. Eubanks, Claude J. Rogers, and Tobin J. Dickerson of The Scripps Research Institute, the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, and the Worm Institute for Research and Medicine; and Albert E. Beuscher IV, George F. Koob, and Arthur J. Olson of The Scripps Research Institute.
The study was supported by the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research and the National Institutes of Health and the findings appeared in the online edition of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, a publication of the American Chemical Society.
Department of Chemistry and Immunology, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.