Cannabis May Hold The Key to Preventing Neurodegenerative Diseases

Cannabis may hold the key to helping prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as new research has found it contains a chemical that protects brain cells against ageing.

Even better, the cannabinoid responsible CBN (cannabinol) is non-psycho intoxicating meaning it doesn’t get you high.

The senior author, Professor Pamela Maher said:

“We’ve found cannabinol protects neurons from oxidative stress and cell death—two of the major contributors to Alzheimer’s. This discovery could one day lead to the development of new therapeutics for treating this disease and other neurodegenerative disorders—like Parkinson’s disease.”

The majority of studies into cannabis have focused on THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

Little research has been focused on the therapeutic properties of CBN which is similar molecularly but not as heavily regulated.

A team at The Salk Institute in California had previously identified the neuro-protective properties and now they have found the mechanism.

The experiments have shown that CBN stops oxitosis which is the death of a cell. This process is started by the loss of an antioxidant called glutathione.

In the lab nerve cells were treated with CBN before the oxidative damage was applied.

The analysis found that CBN boosted the mitochondria – the cells power station.

In the damaged neurons, oxidation caused them to curl up into a doughnut shape which is similar to what has been seen in peoples brains with Alzheimer’s.

Adding CBN to these cells maintained their healthy space and kept them functioning well.

Professor Maher said:

“We were able to directly show maintenance of mitochondrial function was specifically required for the protective effects of the compound.”

This study also found that CBN didn’t activate the cannabinoid receptor which happens when you get the psychoactive response.

So medication with CBN would be able to work without the user getting high.

Dr Zhibin Llang said:

”CBN is not a controlled substance like THC—the psychotropic compound in cannabis.

“Evidence has shown CBN is safe in animals and humans. And because CBN works independently of cannabinoid receptors, it could also work in a wide variety of cells with ample therapeutic potential.”

Prof Maher shared:

“Mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in changes in various tissues—not just in the brain and ageing.

“So the fact this compound is able to maintain mitochondrial function suggests it could have more benefits beyond the context of Alzheimer’s disease.”

She calls for more research into CBN and other lesser-known cannabinoids within the cannabis plant.

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