Cannabinoid Receptors Help Reduce Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Inflammation

Our body’s natural cannabinoid receptors may play an important role in reducing inflammation in Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Parkinson's disease patient showing a flexed w...

Parkinson’s disease patient showing a flexed walking posture pictured in 1892. Photo appeared in Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpètrière, vol. 5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again, ground breaking cannabinoid research is announced by researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University. Chronic inflammation anywhere in our bodies is a destructive process; in the brain it is particularly insidious. “Inflammation is an important pathogenic factor in Parkinson’s disease (PD),” remind the Spanish researchers in this new study. Inflammation can “kill dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra and to enhance the dopaminergic denervation of the striatum.”

Among the many functions of your endocannabinoid system is control of inflammation., and more generally, protecting nerve cells (neuroprotection). Your cannabinoid system activates from interaction with your natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide. Plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, and synthesized research cannabinoids can also modulate your endocannabinoid system, through its receptors CB1 and CB2, (and other receptors and processes).

This new Spanish research focused on receptor CB2.

Unlike CB1 receptors which are found primarily in the outer layer of neurons in the brain and throughout the body, CB2 receptors are more associated with the immune system. This research looked at CB2 in brain cells, not in neurons, but in microglia support cells. About one out of seven of your total brain cells are these microglia immune cells; macrophage-like, they serve as a sensitive as house-keepers, removing damaged neurons and other waste material. When need be, microglial cells mount a powerful protective force against bacterial and other threats to your neurons.

The Spaniards write:

The cannabinoid type-2 (CB2) receptor has been investigated as a potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective target in different neurodegenerative disorders, but still limited evidence has been collected in PD. Here, we show for the first time that CB2 receptors are elevated in microglial cells recruited and activated at lesioned sites in the substantia nigra of PD patients compared to control subjects.

In an earlier study, some of the same researchers examined the possible use of the cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) . See Symptom-relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ⁹-THCV in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. Again, activation of CB2 receptors was the focus. The researchers concluded:

Given its antioxidant properties and its ability to activate CB(2) but to block CB(1) receptors, Δ(9)-THCV has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms.

Cannabinoids Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

It may be that small clumps of beta-amyloid protein begin causing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by destroying the synapses between brain cells well before they form the plaques that have been associated with this memory-eroding and personality-robbing disorder. New research out of Stanford University reported in Science Digest (Scientists Reveal How Beta-Amyloid May Cause Alzheimer’s) found that these small bits of beta-amyloid protein clump together and, as bunches, bind with receptors on neurons.  This displaces connections with other neurons, destroying the synapses between that, in very real ways, make us who we are. Too many synapses destroyed  and soon you can’t remember Uncle Bob. Or your spouse.

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Although in a way this is bad news–damage is taking place even before the plaque formation long thought to be the problem–the good news is that the finding may point to ways to help prevent the cruel disease with earlier intervention. Even better news is that a whole new class of preventive and therapeutic agents, cannabinoids, have been found to be very useful in curbing the ravages of Alzheimer”s disease. Cannabinoids are compounds that modulate specific receptors on brain cells, immune cells and other cells in the body. Three types of cannabinoids  exist: They can be produced by our bodies, by the plant cannabis, and synthetically in the laboratory. Last year Spanish researchers documented in the Journal of Neuroinflammation how cannabinoids are neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agents with therapeutic potential,

Their research, entitled Prolonged oral cannabinoid administration prevents neuroinflammation, lowers β-amyloid levels and improves cognitive performance in Tg APP 2576 mice. The Spaniards found that oral dosing with cannabinoids “ameliorates cognitive performance, decreases neuroinflammation and Aβ levels, likely by increasing its transport to the periphery.”  The cannabinoid treatment boosted memory and cognition, reduced brain inflammation and helped carry away the beta-amyloid tangles. What’s not to like! Yet again have cannabinoids been found to have powerful and beneficial medical effects, providing neuroprotection against one of the more cruel diseases to strike modern humans.

The Spanish research investigated synthetic cannabinoids, but earlier research found powerful AD preventive effects from THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Astoundingly, researchers found when “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.”  The enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) promotes beta-amyloid clumping; THC prevents this clumping by binding with receptors on AChE molecules. Some pharmaceutical drugs use the same tactic, but THC was far more effective! On another AD front, researchers in 2013 declared that deficiency in density of CB1 receptors, the receptors activated by THC to produce psychoactivity along with a host of preventive, curative and palliative effects, resulted in worsened AD symptoms.

Fear of losing their memory and personalities to cruel diseases like Alzheimer’s is the number one anxiety of those over 50 years of age. This group should be aware that cannabinoids, even THC, can provide protection for brain cells help stave off dementia-producing inflammation and beta-amyloid clumping.

Copyright © Don Fitch