New research out of the UK may explain why chemicals from marijuana offer protection in various models of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s is more common among the aging population and is marked by a widespread loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.
However, investigators from the Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry at University of Plymouth say that numerous studies have found cannabinoids to protect cells from Parkinson’s-related damage.
Cannabinoids such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] are neuroprotective in animal and cell culture models of Parkinson’s disease.
In the latest study, the team, led by Camille Carrol, Ph.D, identified a mechanism that appears to underlie these benefits.
Using established cell models, Dr. Carrol and colleagues found that THC could activate a specific pathway (PPAR-γ) which previous studies have linked to protection in Parkinson’s models. Activation of PPAR-γ is believed to increase the viability of cells by boosting mitochondria production.
The findings will appear in the November issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Δ9-THC induces PPARγ dependent mitochondrial biogenesis, a mechanism that may be beneficial for the treatment of PD [Parkinson’s disease].
The study also helps to explain the results of Dr. Carrol’s previous work, which found THC to have a direct effect against cell injury in Parkinson’s through its “neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-apoptotic” activity.
While current treatments for Parkinson’s cannot slow the progression of the disease, researchers have managed to slow the death of dopamine cells in animal models of Parkinson’s using both THC and CBD.
But human trials need to be conducted before cannabinoid-based therapies may be used in clinical settings.
Sources of funding were not reported