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In humans as well as in mice, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) seems to be involved in physiological aging; cannabinoid receptors are less abundant and ECS activity is reduced with age. A recent European study explored the potential benefits of THC, one of the active ingredients in cannabis, on the brains of aging mice. They divided the mice into a THC treatment group and a control group and assessed their ability to perform a variety of learning tasks as the mice aged. In two-month-old mice, the THC treatment had a negative impact on performance, which is consistent with past findings that THC has adverse effects on young brains. But in mice aged 12 months and 18 months, the cognitive impairment seen in the control group was not present in mice receiving THC. In fact, the mice taking regular doses of THC saw substantial and enduring improvements in cognitive performance. Researchers also looked at the synaptic connections and gene expressions in the hippocampus, in both of which the old treatment mice’s profiles resembled the young control mice. The mice treated with THC also saw upregulation of proteins that are known to improve cognitive function, extend lifespan, and resist Alzheimer’s disease and downregulation of proteins that are related to damage and cell death. It is important to note that in this study, the mice received therapeutic doses of THC: low doses that do not cause the psychogenic side effects seen in recreational use of cannabis. The team will further their research by testing whether THC has the same effect in humans.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Nature: http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.4311.html
DATE RETRIEVED: May 12, 2017