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Could THC improve the performance of aging brain cells? Could the psychoactive compounds in medical cannabis offer a cure for Dementia?

Often, studies are first done on mice in order to show efficacy before researchers will decide to test on human subjects.

This is exactly what the scientists at the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany did. The study, led by Professor Andreas Zimmer of Bonn University and the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation, wanted to see what effect THC would have on aging brain cells in mice, specifically in regards to seeing how it would affect memory.  Researchers started out with the knowledge that cannabinoids naturally decrease with age. They wanted to see if introducing THC into the system would help stimulate the endocannabinoid system and help foster improved brain function.

The researchers split the mice into three groups based on age: two, twelve, and eighteen months.  They then administered the THC (the psychoactive compound in medical cannabis) over a four week period.  Amounts of THC given to the mice were too small to produce psychoactive effects.  Once the four-week treatment was completed, Zimmer and his colleagues had the mice run through a series of tests such as navigating their way through mazes. They also did tests to establish how well they could recognize other mice.

What the researchers found was that the older, aging mice who had been given the THC, performed as well as the younger mice.  However, the aging mice who had been given the placebo performed worse than their THC-treated counterparts.  Even more compelling, was the research that showed greater connections in the hippocampus (the brain’s memory center). This led researchers to conclude that the mices’ memory did improve with the introduction of THC. This has big implications for patients suffering from dementia.

In addition to this study, there are previous studies which concluded that THC can help to prune away amyloid clumps. These clumps are typically indicative of Alzheimer’s disease, although this study was done on cells inside a laboratory setting.  There has yet to be a conclusive study done on THC’s effect on Alzheimer’s or dementia in humans.

While, the science minister in the region, Svenja Schulze, concedes that there is a large gap between mice and human subjects, this research provides enough evidence that Zimmer plans to replicate the study with human subjects.  There may be some difficulties in figuring out the aging of mice versus humans and what concentration of THC will be appropriate for patients, especially in regards to creating positive medical effects without any psychoactive effects.

Despite the current status of medical cannabis in the United States and around the world, there are more and more states and countries who understand that medical cannabis can have positive outcomes on a variety of illnesses.  Studies like Professor ZImmer’s only strengthen the case for the medical cannabis community, and help show the world that there is scientifically sound data that supports the use of medical cannabis in patients, with amazing effects.

[Image credit: Pixabay]

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