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Cannabinoid May Halt Alzheimer's Progression, Study Says

NORML , 18th August 2006

THC inhibits the formation of amyloid plaque, the primary marker for Alzheimer's disease (AD), far more effectively than approved medications, according to preclinical data to be published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Investigators at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California reported that THC inhibits the enzyme responsible for the aggregation of amyloid plaque in a manner "considerably superior" to approved Alzheimer's drugs such as donepezil and tacrine.

"Our results provide a mechanism whereby the THC molecule can directly impact Alzheimer's disease pathology," researchers concluded. "THC and its analogues may provide an improved therapeutic [option] for Alzheimer's disease [by]... simultaneously treating both the symptoms and the progression of [the] disease."

Previous studies have shown cannabinoids to possess anti oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which may play a role in moderating Alzheimer's.

Last year, investigators at Madrid's Complutense University and the Cajal Institute in Spain reported that the intracerebroventricular administration of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2 prevented cognitive impairment and decreased neurotoxicity in rats. Other cannabinoids were also found to reduce the inflammation associated with Alzheimer's disease in human brain tissue in culture. "Our results indicate that... cannabinoids succeed in preventing the neurodegenerative process occurring in the disease," investigators concluded.

Over 4.5 million Americans are estimated to be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. That figure is expected to triple over the next 50 years.

Previous human trials of synthetic THC (Marinol) and Alzheimer's found that administration of the drug reduced agitation and stimulated weight gain in patients suffering from the disease.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "A molecular link between the active component of marijuana and Alzheimer's disease pathology," is available online at:

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