A new study from researchers at Cleveland Clinic has found that agonists of cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) have a therapeutic effect on Alzheimer’s disease.
Cannabinoids could be beneficial for inhibiting the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, suggest findings in a new study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology. Researchers from the Anesthesiology Institute at Cleveland Clinic found that agonists of the cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) provide neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects that reduce damage to brain cells.
Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills, accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases and affects an estimated 5.1 million Americans. The disease is characterized by neuroinflammation and the buildup of protein fragments called amyloid-beta, which interfere with cell communication and nutrient transport in the brain, causing cells to eventually degenerate and die.
In the Cleveland Clinic animal study, researchers found that administering CB2 agonists effectively suppressed neuroinflammation and promoted the clearance of amyloid-beta plaques to in turn promote the recovery of brain cells and improve cognitive performance.
“The brains of patients with [Alzheimer’s disease] show increased expression of cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) receptors and glial markets,” the study’s abstract reads. “CB2 receptors act as a negative feedback regular; when activated by a CB2 agonist, they can help limit the extent of the neuroinflammatory response and the subsequent development of neuronal damage in the central nervous system.”
“Collectively, these findings suggest that [a CB2 agonist] has a potential therapeutic effect in the setting of AD,” the researchers conclude.
The CB2 receptor is one of the two major receptors of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating an array of functions and processes. Located primarily in immune cells but also throughout the central nervous system, CB2 receptors have been found to be associated with managing inflammation and limiting damage to tissue.
Cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have been shown to interact with cannabinoid receptors. In the study, researchers used MDA7, a compound and CB2 agonist, to mimic the effects of cannabinoids.
Previous studies on cannabinoids and Alzheimer’s disease also indicate that the compounds are effective at reducing the buildup of plaque and inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A 2014 animal study found chronic CBD treatments provided neuroprotective, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which in turn promoted the regeneration of brain cells.
The CB2’s association with neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory responses suggest that it and cannabinoids could be beneficial in treating other degenerative diseases related to neuroinflammation, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.
Of the 29 U.S. states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws, 11 have approved cannabis specifically for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, which is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
You can access the entire study, “Activation of CB2 receptor system restores cognitive capacity and hippocampal Sox2 expression in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease,” via Science Direct.
Learn more about the research already done on cannabinoids and Alzheimer’s disease by visiting our education page.