Decades of research on medical cannabis has focused on the compounds THC and CBD in clinical applications. But less is known about the therapeutic properties of cannabinol (CBN).
In a new study from Salk Institute, researchers found how CBN can protect brain cells from oxidative damage, a major pathway to cell death.
Oxidative stress and cell death are two of the major contributors to Alzheimer’s.
The findings suggest CBN has the potential for treating age-related neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.
Derived from the cannabis plant, CBN is molecularly similar to THC, but is not psychoactive. It’s also less heavily regulated by the FDA.
Previous research found that CBN had neuroprotective properties, but it wasn’t clear how it worked.
Now, this new study explains the mechanism through which CBN protects brain cells from damage and death.
In the study, the team looked at the process of oxytosis, also called ferroptosis, which is thought to occur in the aging brain. Growing evidence suggests that oxytosis may be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Oxytosis can be triggered by the gradual loss of an antioxidant called glutathione, causing neural cell damage and death via lipid oxidation.
The team found that the CBN worked by protecting mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, within the neurons.
In damaged cells, oxidation caused the mitochondria to curl up like donuts—a change that’s also been seen in aging cells taken from the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Treating cells with CBN prevented the mitochondria from curling up and kept them functioning well.
In another key finding, researchers showed that CBN did not activate cannabinoid receptors, which are required for cannabinoids to produce a psychoactive response.
Thus, CBN therapeutics would work without causing the individual to become “high.”
The team says CBN is not a controlled substance like THC, the psychotropic compound in cannabis, and evidence has shown that CBN is safe in animals and humans.
And because CBN works independently of cannabinoid receptors, CBN could also work in a wide variety of cells with ample therapeutic potential.
In addition to Alzheimer’s, the findings have implications for other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, which is also linked to glutathione loss.
If you care about brain health, please read studies that scientists find the cause of Alzheimer’s disease in human brain, and doing this thing is the key to survive a stroke.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about common food that could reduce vascular disease in the brain, and results showing medical cannabis could reduce this brain disorder.
The study is published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, and was conducted by Pamela Maher et al.
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