A recent discovery has raised hopes for treatment which would improve brain function in old age. Researchers studying the degenerative effects of age and the brain administered small daily doses of cannabis extract have revealed that in test mice the plant was able to “slow, or even reverse, the cognitive decline that comes with old age.”
Researchers studying the degenerative effects of age and the brain administered small daily doses of cannabis extract have revealed that in test small animals, the plant was able to “slow, or even reverse, the cognitive decline that comes with old age” without the added behavioral effects when done recreationally. The next step will be to move the testing onto human subjects, planned to take place later this year.
As reported by The Guardian
The idea emerged from tests on mice which found that regular, low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – impaired memory and learning in young animals, but boosted the performance of old ones.
“If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care then that is more than we could have imagined,” said Andras Bilkei-Gorzo at the University of Bonn.
Research on cannabis use by adolescents has found compelling evidence that regular, heavy use can impair the memory. But the impact of the drug on older people’s brains has been far less well studied.
Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, the scientists describe how they gave a month-long course of daily THC to mice aged two months, one year, and 18 months. The mice were then tested to see how fast they solved a water maze, and how quickly they recognised familiar objects such as mice they had met before.
While the use of the plant medicine can be detrimental to the brain development of youth, in the testing of the drug in mice- TCH seems to improve the brain function in the older mice.
Without the drug, the younger mice aced the tests, while the older ones struggled. But infusions of THC had a dramatic impact on both groups. The performance of the younger mice plummeted on THC, while older mice improved so much that their scores matched those of healthy drug-free young mice. The benefits lasted for weeks after the infusions ended. None of the mice displayed the strange effects one might expect from doses of THC.
“These results reveal a profound, long-lasting improvement of cognitive performance resulting from a low dose of THC treatment in mature and old animals,” the scientists write. The boost in brain function was linked to an apparent restoration of gene expression in the brain to more youthful levels.
TheGerman team believes that the drug works by stimulating what is known as the endocannabinoid system, a biochemical pathway that becomes less active with age in mice, humans and other animals. “I’m sure that what we are seeing are the long-term consequences of normalising the system,” Bilkei-Gorzo said.
The discovery is a breakthrough for the world, but unfortunately, those who reside in nations with hardline views in regards to the plant being solely a drug, and not a medicine may sadly miss out on life-saving and live improving treatment.
David Nutt, the former government drugs adviser and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said he was not surprised at the potential for THC to improve memory in old age. “The key question now is does the same apply to humans? Clearly this needs to be tested, but it will not be possible in the UK due to the ridiculous restrictions on cannabis research occasioned by its being a schedule 1 drug.”
Michael Bloomfield, a clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London said: “What is particularly exciting about this research is that it opens up a whole new chemical system, the endocannabinoid system, as a potential target for new avenues of research, which could include illnesses like dementia.
“However, we are still in very early days and further research is needed,” he said. THC produces complicated and sometimes apparently opposite effects depending on the dose, the age of the person taking it, and how often the drug is administered, he warned. “This means that the possibility of doctors potentially prescribing cannabis, THC or similar compounds for memory problems in older people is still a long way off,” he added.
What do you think about research has revealed? Would you be open to taking cannabis extract in your old age to improve your quality of life? Do you back the continued research of the benefits and pitfalls of the ever controversial plant? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
(Article By Tasha Sharifa)