Alzheimer’s affects one in eight people over 65, and there have been few successes at treating or preventing it. This study suggests that exciting the brain’s cannabinoid receptors may slow brain degradation and dementia.
Findings: Some compounds were suggested to have therapeutic potential in neurodegenerative diseases.
Study: Cannabinoids and Dementia: A Review of Clinical and Preclinical Data (2010)
Location: University Hospital of Psychiatry, Bolligenstrasse, Switzerland
This study was a review of the preclinical and clinical data on cannabinoids and four neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Huntington’s disease (HD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and vascular dementia (VD).
Cannabinoids seem to be involved in disease pathology in various ways, and some compounds were suggested to have therapeutic potential in neurodegenerative diseases. For instance, CB1/CB2 agonists may interrupt excitotoxicity and reduce neuroinflammation in AD brains, modulators of endocannabinoid signaling may reduce hyperactivity in HD, while CB1 agonists could reduce dyskinesia in PD. However, most of the in vitro findings need replication in animal studies and afterwards human trials are required.
In the field of human trials, curative or disease-modifying approaches have not been followed yet. An interesting study objective would be to investigate in a prospective trial whether the non-psychoactive compound CBD may slow down the cognitive decline in AD. Furthermore, it should be evaluated whether the administration of CBD in combination with CB1 agonists or alone could slow the neurodegenerative process in patients suffering from HD and PD. Cannabinoid based drugs may therefore become a therapeutic option to modify the course of neurodegenerative diseases.
The small but successful human trials with CB1 agonists in HD and AD that ameliorated behavioral disturbances are promising. The reported beneficial effects of Nabilone in HD or dronabinol in AD with behavioral disturbances call for replication in larger trials covering longer periods of observation.
The transition of findings from bench to the bedside and the extension of results from small clinical trials should be on the research agenda for the near future. Because treatment strategies for dementia are so preliminary at the current state of knowledge and the need for a cure is so desperate, it is worth pursuing the quest for one or more cannabinoid compounds in the field.