Can CBD reverse aging brain ? A recent literature review cites the evidence. The accumulation of disease-specific protein disorganized bundles is a hallmark of age-associated neurological and genetic disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. Cannabidiol has the ability to abate oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and protein misfolding.
Compelling evidence documents its disease-modifying role in various preclinical and clinical models of neurological disorders. A personal clinical experience from Dr. Blair, Philip at the College of Cannabinoid Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, has validated this evidence in a wide range of neurodegenerative conditions. “Even in cases of genetic disorders, like Down Syndrome, complications may be minimized and individuals achieve greater cognitive potential with small amounts of quality CBD” said Dr. Blair, Phillip.
Emerging Potential of Cannabidiol in Reversing Proteinopathies
On November 9, 2020, at the National Center for Biotechnology Information a study was published. Their abstract stated that along with oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, disruption in protein homeostasis (proteostasis), a network that constitutes protein surveillance system, plays a pivotal role in the pathobiology of these dementia disorders. Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid of Cannabis sativa, is known for its pleiotropic neuropharmacological effects on the central nervous system, including the ability to abate oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and protein misfolding.
Over the past years, compelling evidence has documented disease-modifying role of cannabidiol in various preclinical and clinical models of neurological disorders, suggesting the potential therapeutic implications of cannabidiol in these disorders. Because of its putative role in the proteostasis network in particular, cannabidiol could be a potent modulator for reversing not only age-associated neurodegeneration but also other protein misfolding disorders.
However, the current understanding is insufficient to underpin this proposition. In their review, they discuss the potentiality of cannabidiol as a pharmacological modulator of the proteostasis network, highlighting its neuroprotective and aggregates clearing roles in the neurodegenerative disorders. They anticipate that the current effort will advance the knowledge on the implication of CBD in proteostasis network, opening up a new therapeutic window for aging proteinopathies.
Cannabis Reverses Aging Processes in the Brain
Cannabis is usually associated with cognitive deficits such as short term memory loss, and problems maintaining attention. Research now suggests however that it may work differently on older users. Rather than invoking learning impairments, it may reverse age-related cognitive decline.
In a study, researchers demonstrated that cannabis was able to reverse aging in the brains of mice. To find this out, they treated mice aged between two, 12 and 18 months old with low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis responsible for feeling ‘high’. They also monitored a control group on a placebo. After the four-week drug regimen, they then tested the learning capacities and memory performance of the mice including orientation skills and their ability to recognize other mice.
In the end, the mice dosed with THC demonstrated cognitive functioning similar to that of the two-month-old control animals. Meanwhile, the mice in the placebo group displayed memory loss and age-dependent decline in learning abilities appropriate for their age.
To explain the findings, Dr. Zimmer, Andreas, from the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn and member of the Cluster of Excellence Immuno Sensation., says “With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces… When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid aging in the brain. The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals.”
The study by scientists at the University of Bonn with their colleagues at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) have come to the conclusion that cannabis can reverse these aging processes in the brain.
Like any other organ, our brain ages. As a result, cognitive ability also decreases with increasing age. This can be noticed, for instance, in that it becomes more difficult to learn new things or devote attention to several things at the same time. This process is normal, but can also promote dementia. Researchers have long been looking for ways to slow down or even reverse this process.
Years of Meticulous Research
This treatment success is the result of years of meticulous research. Most importantly, the scientists discovered that the brain ages much faster when mice do not possess any functional receptors for THC. This cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors are proteins to which the substances dock and thus trigger a signal chain. CB1 is also the reason for the intoxicating effect of THC in cannabis products, such as hashish or marijuana, which accumulate at the receptor. THC imitates the effect of cannabinoids produced naturally in the body, which fulfill important functions in the brain. “With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces,” says Prof. Zimmer. “When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid aging in the brain.”
To discover precisely what effect the THC treatment has in old mice, the researchers examined the brain tissue and gene activity of the treated mice. The findings were surprising: the molecular signature no longer corresponded to that of old animals, but was instead very similar to that of young animals. The number of links between the nerve cells in the brain also increased again, which is an important prerequisite for learning ability. “It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” says Zimmer.
Next Step: Clinical Trial on Humans
A low dose of the administered THC was chosen so that there was no intoxicating effect in the mice. Cannabis products are already permitted as medications, for instance as pain relief. As a next step, the researchers want to conduct a clinical trial to investigate whether THC also reverses aging processes in the brain in humans and can increase cognitive ability.
The North Rhine-Westphalia science minister Svenja Schulze appeared thrilled by the study: “The promotion of knowledge-led research is indispensable, as it is the breeding ground for all matters relating to application. Although there is a long path from mice to humans, I feel extremely positive about the prospect that THC could be used to treat dementia, for instance.”
Although remarkable findings, as human trials assessing the same phenomenon are yet to be conducted, it is too soon to say whether the results translate over to humans. Nevertheless, the researchers say that their findings pave the way for further research avenues assessing the possibility of low doses of THC as a remedy for various brain injuries and treatment of age-related cognitive decline.