In a new study, researchers found that a two-week course of high doses of CBD helps restore the function of two proteins key to reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and improves cognition.
The proteins TREM2 and IL-33 are important to the ability of the brain’s immune cells to literally consume dead cells and other debris like the beta-amyloid plaque that piles up in patients’ brains, and levels of both are decreased in Alzheimer’s.
The researchers reported for the first time that CBD normalizes levels and function, improving cognition as it also reduces levels of the immune protein IL-6, which is linked to the high inflammation levels found in Alzheimer’s.
The research was conducted by a team at Augusta University and elsewhere.
There is a dire need for novel therapies to improve outcomes for patients with this condition, which is considered one of the fastest-growing health threats in the United States.
Right now scientists have two classes of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.
One class increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which also are decreased in Alzheimer’s, and another works through the NMDA receptors involved in communication between neurons and important to memory.
In the study, the team decided to look at CBD’s ability to address some of the key brain systems that go awry in Alzheimer’s.
They found CBD appears to normalize levels of IL-33, a protein whose highest expression in humans is normally in the brain, where it helps sound the alarm that there is an invader like the beta-amyloid accumulation.
There is emerging evidence of its role as a regulatory protein as well. In Alzheimer’s, that includes turning down inflammation and trying to restore balance to the immune system.
That up and down expression in health and disease could make IL-33 both a good biomarker and treatment target for disease.
CBD also improved the expression of triggering receptors expressed on myeloid cells 2, or TREM2, which is found on the cell surface where it combines with another protein to transmit signals that activate cells, including immune cells.
The team found CBD treatment increased levels of IL-33 and TREM2—sevenfold and tenfold respectively.
They say the next steps include determining optimal doses and giving CBD earlier in the disease process.
The Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to make a ruling by early June on a new drug aducanumab, which would be the first to attack and help clear beta-amyloid.
One author of the study is Dr. Babak Baban, an immunologist.
The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
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