August 12, 2006
THC Blocks Alzheimer's Plaque Formation

Old hippies who haven't toked for decades might come back to the stoner life. Marijuana active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol blocks the formation of beta amyloid plaques which are suspected as a cause of Alzheimers disease.

LA JOLLA, CA, August 9, 2006 - Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have found that the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, inhibits the formation of amyloid plaque, the primary pathological marker for Alzheimer's disease. In fact, the study said, THC is "a considerably superior inhibitor of [amyloid plaque] aggregation" to several currently approved drugs for treating the disease.

The study was published online August 9 in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

According to the new Scripps Research study, which used both computer modeling and biochemical assays, THC inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which acts as a "molecular chaperone" to accelerate the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer victims. Although experts disagree on whether the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in those areas critical to memory and cognition is a symptom or cause, it remains a significant hallmark of the disease. With its strong inhibitory abilities, the study said, THC "may provide an improved therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease" that would treat "both the symptoms and progression" of the disease.

The development of better tests for amyloid plaque formation probably will provide the ability to predict the development of Alzheimer's many years in advance of obvious symptoms. For people who face the threat of losing their memory 10 years hence if THC can prevent or delay that outcome use of THC might be worth it. Though quite a few people won't want to go through every day of their lives high on THC.

THC works better than commercial drugs currently on the market.

"When we investigated the power of THC to inhibit the aggregation of beta-amyloid," Janda said, "we found that THC was a very effective inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase. In addition to propidium, we also found that THC was considerably more effective than two of the approved drugs for Alzheimer's disease treatment, donepezil (Aricept ) and tacrine (Cognex ), which reduced amyloid aggregation by only 22 percent and 7 percent, respectively, at twice the concentration used in our studies. Our results are conclusive enough to warrant further investigation."

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. It gradually robs you of your identity. People who face the prospect of losing their memories should be allowed a great deal of latitutde in terms of what they can do to protect themselves from that fate. I expect drugs, antibodies, and vaccines will all come to market in the next 10 years that stop and reverse beta amyloid plaque formation. Use of THC for this purpose will be transitory at best. But will any government even allow clinical trials of its effectiveness against Alzheimer's?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 August 12 10:44 AM  Brain Alzheimers Disease

david child said at August 25, 2006 1:38 PM:

I cant find the journal Molecular Pharmaceuticals, at least not without buying CAS Scifinder for Bio research. Isnt it published on-line? Any suggestions?

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