Cannabis can help reverse the aging process in the brain, German-Israel scientists have now achieved this groundbreaking goal in mice – next in humans.
The study was carried out following years of meticulous research, according to the scientists involved from the University of Bonn, Germany and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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The team report that by administering a low dose of THC, the active ingredient in the hemp plant (cannabis), they manage to get the younger effect on the brain in mice. The small quantity was chosen to avoid any intoxicating effect in the mice.
The results published in Nature Medicine are opening up the possibility that the cannabis can use in the treatment of dementia.
Relatively mice have a short life expectancy in nature and show pronounced cognitive deficits even at 12 months of age.
The researchers gave a small quantity of cannabis’ THC, to mice at age 2, 12 and 18 months.
After a period of four weeks of treatment, the scientists tested learning capacity and memory performance in the animals including, for example, orientation skills and their ability to recognize other mice.
Mice that received placebo showed natural age-dependent learning and memory losses.
While mice given cannabis showed cognitive functions equal to animals at two-month-old, used as a control group.
“The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals,” said study’s authors Prof. Andreas Zimmer from the University of Bonn.
The team revealed that the brain ages much faster when mice do not possess cannabinoid 1 (CB1) functional receptors for THC.
These receptors are proteins that act as docking stations for cannabinoids like THC from substances such as hashish or marijuana.
The team also found that the molecular signature — the sets of genes, proteins, and genetic variants of the mice — was no longer in line with the molecular signature of old animals, but instead showed similarities to that of young animals.
THC imitates the effect of cannabinoids that are produced naturally in the body and fulfill essential functions in the brain.
“It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” said Zimmer, pointing to the increased number of links between the nerve cells in the brain, which are essential for learning ability and are associated with younger mice.
The next step for the team is to see if THC can also reverse aging processes in the brain in humans and increase its cognitive ability.
North Rhine-Westphalia Science Minister Svenja Schulze is commenting, “Although there is a long path from mice to humans, I feel extremely positive about the prospect that THC could be used to treat dementia, for instance.”