Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a compound being tested by researchers from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, for its ability to ensure levels of a certain chemical is maintained in the brain, in order to prevent the formation of plaque, a characteristic feature in Alzheimer's patients.
Researchers said, "Our results provide a mechanism whereby the THC molecule can directly impact Alzheimer's disease pathology." The drugs commonly in use, donepezil cut down the growth of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase that breaks down acetylcholine, which is the key brain chemical known to offset the formation of amyloid plaques. THS, it was observed acted against the enzyme as well as protected against plaque formation.
"It might be possible to reformulate or rebuild the THC molecule so it has the anti-Alzheimer's effects without causing disturbances of cognition - getting high or stoned," said Professor Masters, from the University of Melbourne and the Mental Health Research Institute.