A TWO week course of CBD helped improve brain function in the hereditary form of Alzheimer’s Disease and could offer similar benefits for other forms of the condition, experts believe.
A study found that high doses of the cannabis extract helped restore the function of two proteins which are key to reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque, a hallmark of the disease.
Professor Craig Ritchie, one of Scotland’s leading experts in dementia research, described the findings as “good although early” but cautioned that the American research was carried out using a mouse model.
Many molecular and cellular changes take place in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The beta-amyloid protein involved comes in several different molecular forms that collect between neurons and generally appear in the brain 15-20 years before dementia.
One form, beta-amyloid 42, is thought to be especially toxic. In the Alzheimer’s brain, abnormal levels of this naturally occurring protein clump together to form plaques that collect between neurons and disrupt cell function.
The proteins TREM2 and IL-33 are important to the ability of the brain’s immune cells to consume dead cells and other debris like the beta-amyloid plaque that piles up in patients’ brains, and levels of both are decreased in Alzheimer’s.
The study,which was carried out by the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, found that CBD increased levels of TREM2 and IL-33 sevenfold and tenfold respectively in mice.
It also reduced levels of the immune protein IL-6, which is associated with the high inflammation levels.
People with Alzheimer’s also experience movement problems like stiffness and impaired gate, which was reduced by CBD.
Symptoms of Familial Alzheimer’s Disease typically begin in the 30s and 40s and it affects around 10-15% of all patients.
The study authors concluded that CBD should be at least, equally effective in the most common forms of Alzheimer’s and further studies are now underway.
Professor Craig Ritchie, Director of the Centre for Dementia Prevention at Edinburgh University, said: “Broadly speaking this is a rational target as IL-33 and TREM are clearly implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease pathogenesis.
“Perturbation with any agent therefore may well have therapeutic benefit.
“This of course is cautioned by the fact that many interventions in transgenic animal models have failed to have meaningful benefit in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.
“The authors though are right to point out that this provides a complimentary pathway to traditional anti-amyloid and anti-tau agenda and that should should also work in sporadic AD where these processes are also implicated.
“So good, though early and against a rational target.”
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp and cannabis plants and is generally sold as a food supplement. Research is limited but it is most commonly used to treat anxiety, sleep problems and chronic pain while professional sports players have reported benefits.
Market research commissioned by the thinktank Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) estimates that the CBD market in the UK could be worth almost £1bn a year by 2025.
The government-run Food Standards Agency (FSA) is bringing in new rules which could result in brands that manufacture products being taken off the market if they do not meet strict safety and quality standards.
Grayson Hart, 32, co-founder of Pure Sport CBD, hopes his firm will be among the first to achieve the standard and he welcomed the Alzheimer’s research.
He said: “Despite all we know about the use of CBD in the treatment of many conditions, the number of high-level studies into its potential benefits are limited, particularly relative to traditional drugs and treatments.
“As more high-level studies are carried out, we will learn more about the effects of CBD and its potential to be used more widely in medicine and wellbeing.”