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Alzheimer’s disease is a slowly degenerative process of the nervous system characterized by an early loss of the ability to remember short-term events and progresses with other neuronal behavioral symptoms, such as language disorders and mood changes and cognitive symptoms. These symptoms occur essentially due to accumulation of specific types of proteins (amyloid beta) in the form of plaques (senile plaques). This process leads to an increase in the number of certain cells (microglia cells) in the nervous system.
Marijuana and its active constituents, the cannabinoids, are known for their therapeutic benefits through acting on their specific receptors, CB1 and CB2, on different cells. In the nervous system, the effects of cannabinoids are exerted through CB1. Therefore, the present study investigated the characters of cannabinoids receptors in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their possible role in its prevention.
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Changes in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their relevance to cannabinoids
It has been shown that the healthy persons have abundance of nerve cells which bear CB1 receptors. These cells are lost in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients, especially in the areas where the plaques are present. The loss of CB1 and activation of harmful microglia cells make the nerves prone to toxic substances. In addition, healthy nerve cells and plaques are not located together in the same area in the brain.
Cannabinoid treatment and toxic changes in Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers successfully induced Alzheimer’s disease in rats by injecting amyloid beta protein. As mentioned above, the microglia cells would be ultimately activated and increased in number. The administration of cannabinoids inhibited the activation of microglia cells significantly. Further, the experimental administration of chemical compounds that activate CB1 receptors might lead to a marked improvement of cognitive functions. The same treatment resulted in a remarkable reduction of toxic substances that was originally associated with impairment of nerve cells.
The mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease prevention by the cannabinoids
Cannabinoids exhibited promising protective mechanisms for nerve cells. Both the synthetic and natural cannabinoids caused an effective blockage of microglial activation and the subsequent nerve toxicity. These effects were observed in the experimental studies (cell culture) and in rats. In fact, this could provide a satisfactory explanation of similarly obtained results from the tissue bank of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The relationship between cannabinoids present in marijuana and Alzheimer’s showed a potent therapeutic efficacy of such chemicals. Cannabinoid treatment leads to blockage of harmful cell activation and accumulation with a significant reduction of neurotoxicity. Despite this apparent protective role, it is important to conduct recent studies based on cannabinoids with minimal side effects in the patients with Alzheimer’s disease.