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The University of Bonn and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: new discoveries on THC

There are many therapeutic effects of medical cannabis, a controversial substance due to its widespread recreational use, but still available in many countries (including ours) for patients with serious neurodegenerative diseases, chronic pain and tumors. And if the list of potential beneficial effects is already interesting, another could be added in the future.

In fact, THC could also prove to be a powerful anti-aging agent. Or rather, improve memory, learning and cognitive faculties in the elderly, protecting the brain from the effects of time. The available clues for now come from mice, but as a study published in Nature Medicine explains, these are important results, which justify experimentation on humans too. THC in older adults could slow brain degeneration.

The study on THC

The research was carried out in the laboratories of the University of Bonn and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He experimented with the effects of cannabis on mice, animals with a rather short life cycle that normally begin to show signs of cognitive decline around 12 months of age.

The researchers administered small doses of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, to the animals at the ages of 2, 12 and 18 months. And they then tested the rodents’ memory and learning abilities, comparing their results with those of mice that had received a placebo (a solution without the active ingredient).

The results

At both 12 and 18 months of age, the mice that received THC showed cognitive functions comparable to those of young people as young as two months old. While in the control group, the animals that were administered the placebo, cognitive decline began to appear around 12 months of age.

“The treatment – ​​claims study coordinator Andreas Zimmer, from the University of Bonn – completely reversed the normal cognitive decline in elderly animals”. To understand how, the researchers now analyzed the animals’ brain tissue. And they discovered that at the molecular level and the connections between neurons, the brains of 18-month-old mice exposed to THC were much more similar to that of young animals than to that of a normal elderly specimen. “Thc – underlines Zimmer – almost seems to turn back the molecular clock of the brain”.

And in humans?

There are many differences between mice and humans, but researchers are convinced that the effects of cannabis could counteract the effect of brain aging in our species too. If this were the case, it would be an important discovery: cannabis could possess the unique ability to reverse brain aging, making itself a candidate as a therapy to counteract cognitive decline and the onset of dementia in old age.

The ifs, obviously. But the researchers feel ready to move on to the next phase, clinical trials on humans: the doses of THC used are very low, they explain, lower than those needed to induce narcotic effects, and the potential benefits are extremely interesting.


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