Cannabis compound found to protect ageing brain cells

26th January 2022

A cannabis compound can reportedly protect nerve cells from oxidative damage that could, eventually, result in cell death. Researchers suggest these new findings could play a part in treating age-related neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

In a study published in the journal “Free Radical Biology and Medicine”, researchers found that cannabinol (CBN) can actually protect brain cells from damage and death.

Medical Xpress reports that CBN, a non-intoxicating compound that has been found to have some medicinal and therapeutic potential, worked by protecting neurons and, more specifically, mitochondria – often referred to as the cell’s powerhouse.

Healthy mitochondria (green); mitochondria showing the effects of oxidative stress (blue); and oxidative stress with CBN (red). Insets show higher magnification of the structure of the mitochondria. Credit: Salk Institute

In damaged cells, the researchers say, oxidation causes the mitochondria to curl up “like doughnuts”—a change that has also been seen in ageing cells in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

However, treating these cells with CBN reportedly prevented the mitochondria from curling up and kept them functioning well.

Pamela Maher, lead author and a research professor and head of Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, said: “We’ve found that cannabinol protects neurons from oxidative stress and cell death, two of the major contributors to Alzheimer’s.

“This discovery could one day lead to the development of new therapeutics for treating this disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s disease.”

While CBN is created when THC, the cannabis plant’s psychoactive compound, begins to age, researchers found that CBN treatment would not result in patients experiencing a “high” from the medicine.

First author Zhibin Liang, a postdoctoral fellow in the Maher lab, added: “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.”

While CBN is less known/popular among researchers and those who use cannabis for medical purposes, some studies have found it to be a powerful antibacterial agent. Others have shown that the compound may also be an effective neuroprotectant and anti-inflammatory.

Related Stories