Monday, November 12, 2007

2005 - Marijuana as treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease

“Marijuana may block Alzheimer's”

This is a very interesting article that I found in the BBC News’ official website. It was first published in February 2005, and its importance for this blog not only lies in its relation to the use of marijuana as medicinal therapy. The article also touches specifically on cannabinoid’s effect on Alzheimer’s, a disease whose effects and impacts have been previously discussed in class.

A research study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, conducted by Madrid’s Complutense University and the Cajal Institute, suggests that a synthetic version of marijuana might halt the declining symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. By studying brain cell receptors to which cannabinoids bind and the structure of microglia, the researchers were able to find that there is a clear dysfunction of cannabinoid receptors in the brain tissue of diseased Alzheimer patients. Patients suffering from this neurodegenerative disease become unable to experience the protective effects of cannabinoids.

When testing cannabinoid’s effect on rats, the researchers not only saw an improvement in their mental functioning, but also a decrease in their immune system’s inflammatory response caused by an inactivation of microglia. The study led to the conclusion that cannabinoids not only protect the brain but also prevent the normal inflammatory response caused by Alzheimer’s disease. After the discoveries made by their study, the aim of the researchers has shifted into developing a drug that acts only on the CR2 cannabinoid receptors, producing the positive effects of cannabinoids, without acting on the CR1 receptors, which produce the damaging and harmful effects of marijuana.

Even though the use of marijuana as medical therapy is extremely controversial nowadays, the introduction of research on its effect for patients with specifically Alzheimer’s disease is more than welcome. As we have learned during class, drugs currently used to treat Alzheimer’s disease have shown small results and have proven to be ineffective in stopping its natural progression. For a disease without a cure, one that affects 5 million Americans a year and is expected to affect up to 100 million worldwide by the middle of this century, the discovery of cannabinoid receptors as potential drug targets, controversial as it might be, is clearly progress.

The hope of developing new drug therapies based on cannabinoid’s healing effects is unfortunately contrasted by the knowledge of its adverse effects, the underdevelopment of its field of research, and the controversy surrounding its use as medical therapy.


No comments: