Cannabinoids may halt the progression
of certain Neurodegenerative Diseases, such as
Alzheimer's, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson's


A just published study appearing in the September 5th edition of the Journal of Neuroscience adds to the growing body of evidence that cannabinoids may halt the progression of certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's.

In this study, French investigators reported that the in vitro (in a petri dish) and in vivo (in animals) administration of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) inhibits prion accumulation in the brain and protects neurons against prion toxicity. Prion accumulation (the accumulation of abnormal, protein-based infectious particles in the brain) is the cause of various transmissible, fatal neurodegenerative diseases in both humans and animals (so-called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs). The most prominent of these diseases in animals is bovine spongiform encephalopathy – commonly known as (Mad Cow) disease; the most common in humans is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – a form of brain damage. No therapeutic treatments for prior-diseases are currently available.

Investigators at the National Center for Scientific Research reported that the administration of CBD (limited the cerebral accumulation of protease-resistant prion protein and significantly increased the survival time) in a dose-dependent manner in animals infected with a strain of

prion disease (murine scrapie). Investigators further reported that prion proteins were "barely detectable" in CBD-treated mice, whereas "substantial amounts of protease-resistant prion protein were present in the brains" of untreated mice. The administration of a synthetic agonist (agent that also binds to the cannabinoid receptors) did not work as effectively as CBD.

"Our results suggest that CBD may protect neurons against the multiple molecular and cellular factors involved in the different steps of the neurodegenerative process, which takes place during prion infection", authors concluded. "When combined with its ability to target the brain and its lack of toxic side effects, CBD may represent a promising new anti-prion drug".

Previous preclinical studies of CBD have shown the compound to inhibit malignant cancer cell growth (including breast cancer and brain cancer) and protect neurons against ethanol-induced brain damage.

Separate studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids – including THC – can delay disease progression in animal models of several, more common neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig's disease. It's unclear whether a similar mechanism of action may be taking place in all of these instances, but it's clear that this is an area of research for cannabinoids that holds great potential.

Full text of the study, "Nonpsychoactive Cannabidiol Prevents Prion Accumulation and Protects Neurons against Prion Toxicity''', appears in the Journal of Neuroscience. Abstracts of the study are available online at:

A summary of this study also appears in today's NORML press release.


Paul Armentano Senior Policy Analyst NORML | NORML Foundation paul@...

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