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Low-Dose Cannabis Treatment Could Reverse the Brain's Aging Process

May 10, 2017 09:19 AM EDT
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A new study from the University of Bonn, in collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, revealed that prolonged exposure to low-dose cannabis treatment could slow down the aging process of the brain in animal models.

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed that older mouse models treated with a small quantity of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis have a molecular signature comparable with younger mice. Additionally, mice exposed to low-dosage of cannabis have more links between nerve cells in the brain, compared to those who were not exposed.

"The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals," said Prof. Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn's Institute of Molecular Psychiatry, in a press release. "It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock," says Zimmer."

For the study, the researchers administered a low dosage of THC to mice aged two, 12 and 18 months over a period of four weeks. After administering the cannabis, the researchers tested the learning capacity and memory performance of the mouse models, including their orientation skills and recognition of other mice.

The researchers observed that mice belonging to the placebo group displayed a natural age-dependent learning and memory loss. On the other hand, the mice groups treated with low-dose cannabis showed cognitive functions that appear to be as good as the two-month-old control mice.

The intoxicating effect of cannabis is caused by THC accumulating in the so-called cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors. The researchers discovered that the brain of mouse models that do not possess functional CB1 receptors ages much faster. When the mice were exposed to small quantity of THC, the researchers observed that the THC imitates the effects of cannabinoids produced naturally in the body.

The researchers chose to use a low-dose of THC to prevent the mice from experiencing its intoxicating effects. With the positive result of the study, the researchers plan to conduct a clinical trial to determine if the reversing effects of THC in the aging process of the brain can also be applied to humans.

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