Who among us does not experience this frustrating state of forgetting what you did yesterday or what you wanted to say? Imagine this condition worsening and then becoming an inseparable part of each day. Our brain can play such tricks in old age. Today, my own translation of a text that appeared this month on one of the Canadian cannabis websites, and deals with the latest research related to brain dementia and how cannabinoids deal with it. Enjoy reading!
New German Studies on How Cannabis Reduces Brain Aging
Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the early 1990s, scientists have been busy breaking down this network of signals and receptors all over the body. One of the most recent discoveries about the role of the endocannabinoid system comes from the University of Bonn in Germany. New research is revealing important links between aging, neurological inflammation and cannabinoid signaling. The team of researchers is laying the groundwork for future links between the recent study „Cannabinoid receptor 1 signaling on hippocampal GABAergic neurons affects microglial activity” and therapeutic doses of THC. This is one of a growing body of research into cannabis and dementia.
Microglial? GABAergic? Cannabinoid receptor 1? What does it all mean?
The CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors are the mailboxes of internal chemical communication. Our bodies sense stress and release information on how to deal with it through chemical transmissions. These mailboxes – the receptors – receive them. Different areas of the body contain different concentrations of cannabinoid receptors, with CB1 mainly found in diffusion throughout the brain.
Cannabis cannabinoids like THC and CBD work in this chemical communication network and small mailboxes to influence how our bodies respond to various stressors. For example, when smoking THC, most people feel relaxed and euphoric. Why? The CB1 receptor in our brains makes a strong bond with THC, which leads to its psychoactive effects.
Now let’s move from CB1 cells to the second area of interest in this study, microglial cells. To date, neuroscientists have discovered nine different types of microglia cells. While each of them has individual characteristics, they all seem focused on protecting the brain from damage. Given that they make up 10-15 percent of all brain cells, their importance cannot be emphasized enough. Some of their jobs include cleaning up the plaque of the brain, getting rid of unused neurons, and stopping infectious invaders. Their primary function is to act as the brain’s immune defense – which means managing inflammation in the first place.
An inflammatory response is not always a healthy response. It can quickly get out of hand and damage even healthy brain tissue. Scientists are now confirming that there is a second player in our brain that controls an over-excitable defense system. Endocannabinoids, both those naturally produced in our bodies and those derived from plants such as cannabis, inhibit overactive inflammatory responses (…)
There is a constant struggle for domination in our brain. Super excitable and inflammation-stimulating microglial cells on the one hand and the calming, inflammation-reducing response of our endocannabinoids on the other. Scientists have known for some time that microglia listen to endocannabinoids, so inflammation is kept in check in a healthy body. What killed the wedge in scientists’ heads – until recent research – is how they communicate. After all, microglial cells do not contain cannabinoid receptors. In other words, these two aspects of our brain don’t speak the same language.
The breakthrough was a 2018 publication in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience exploring how these two opposing forces communicate. Scientists believe that a specific group of CB1-loaded neurons serves as intermediaries, essentially translators. These cells are a GABAergic agent. Neurons contain many CB1 receptors, so endocannabinoids can both talk to them and control their activity.
According to one of the study leaders: “We studied laboratory mice in which the receptor in these neurons was turned off. The inflammatory activity of microglial cells was continuously increased in these animals. ‚ Using genetically modified laboratory mice, the authors of this study discovered that CB1 receptors are essential for controlling inflammatory responses in the brain.
What this means for the potential of cannabis and dementia
Inflammation is closely related to aging, at least as a central component of many age-related diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, disability and others. Chronic inflammation wreaks havoc on the brain. If left unexplored, it continues to destroy healthy tissue, even after the initial trigger is eradicated. Research on aging now focuses on both understanding and controlling inflammation, which is why the study from the University of Bonn is so important. The missing piece between neurological inflammation and endocannabinoid signaling is finally in place.
The team behind the University of Bonn research is slowly building a case of cannabis as a therapeutic agent for age-related diseases. In 2017, these researchers published a preliminary animal study on how cannabis reduces the aging of mice. In their groundbreaking study, mice were served low enough doses of THC to avoid inducing the so-called high. They found that he restored cognition in old mice.
Thanks to new research, a team in Germany is one step closer to making a cannabis treatment plan in geriatrics a reality. Taken together, both studies support more research into the use of cannabis for age-related neurological diseases. First, this early research proves that THC reduces the neurological signs of aging. Second, they show how it uses endocannabinoid signaling for this purpose. The road to a THC prescription to reduce the progression of dementia may still be a long way off, but at least aging has become much more exciting.