Fox Business reports on the heartbreaking statistics related to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease affects the elderly, and is typically marked by a decline in cognitive functioning. It affects 5.4 million Americans today and the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the disease cost $236 billion in treatment in 2016.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth biggest killer in the U.S. and one in nine people suffer the disease. The treatments that exist are designed to slow the process down, but no cure has been fathomed.
Big Pharma tried
The big name drug companies have all aimed at getting their slice of the huge Alzheimer’s pie, but studies all led to disappointment. Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer teamed up to develop Bapineuzumab, and Solanezumab, but both only made it to phase 3 in studies.
The problem seems to be to get active ingredients in drugs through the blood-brain barrier leaving the success rate of Alzheimer treatments exceptionally low. Now researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have hope that the cure to this devastating disease might come from a natural substance that’s readily available.
These scientists tested marijuana, modifying nerve cells in order for them to produce high levels of beta-amyloid, which led to the production of pro-inflammatory proteins that cause the death of nerve cells. Continuous death of nerve cells is what leads to the progressive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. This finding was fascinating, as it has been the belief of science that an immune-like response led to the death of nerve cells, not the proteins themselves.
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Endocannabinoids and nerve cells
The researchers looked into nerve cell receptors activated by endocannabinoids, naturally produced by nerve cells. Marijuana contains cannabinoids similar to the body’s endocannabinoids and activates those same nerve cell receptors.
The hypothesis of the scientists at Salk Institute that cannabis could block the receptors that led to pro-inflammatory protein production and cause nerve cells to die, seems to be accurate. They applied THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis to nerve cells producing high levels of beta-amyloid and found production was lowered, sparing nerve cells from death.
The study must still be tested in well-controlled clinical trials to be considered conclusive, but it still holds hope that cannabis could be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But we should not expect these research results to be imminent. In reality, it could take ages for cannabis to be approved as a beneficial treatment.
Cannabis for Alzheimer’s disease
At the end of the day, Cannabis for Alzheimer’s disease shows potential, but until it gets FDA approval through stringent clinical trials, the evidence we need to confirm or refute this potential is just not there. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s patients and investors looking to take advantage of cannabis’ potential uses will still have to watch and wait.