Artwork by Nick Scott
VICE These days we know at least a little bit about how medical marijuana can help patients with stuff like anxiety, cancer, rare seizure disorders, and PTSD. Now, Science Daily reports that researchers have unearthed some hard evidence showing that THC can help protect the brain against one of America’s leading causes of death: Alzheimer’s disease.
To see how cannabinoids might affect the process that leads to the degenerative brain disease, researchers from the Salk Institute grew some neurons in the laboratory that mimic those found in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s. The cells were programmed to produce a toxin known as amyloid beta, which can build up and cause brain inflammation, leading to memory loss.
They found that not only does THC remove the toxin’s proteins, but it acts like a sort of protective shield for the nerve cells, helping them to survive even in the presence of the amyloid beta.
The senior author of the paper, Salk professor David Schubert, told Science Daily that while other studies have showed weed’s preventative properties against Alzheimer’s symptoms, “We believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells.”
The researchers were quick to add the disclaimer that this whole process was monitored in a lab under regulated conditions, and the next step to test their findings would be to conduct clinical trials. But seeing as the study’s findings show that weed has the same effect on slowing Alzheimer’s that physical activity does, if you’re regularly exercising and smoking, you’re already taking the right steps to keep your mind right.