Buzz kill: Marijuana is not effective at treating Alzheimer's, researchers find

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[Editor's note: Sentence added about the need for further research to determine marijuana's effectiveness as a treatment option.]

A Canadian study has called into question marijuana's effectiveness as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

A number of past studies have indicated that low levels of marijuana's “active ingredient,” Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, could help prevent the accumulation of Amyloid plaques in the brain, and even stimulate brain cell growth. (McKnight's, 10/12/06, 11/20/08) But the new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute came to a different conclusion. Using mice that carry a human genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's disease, researchers studied the effects of HU210, a synthetic version of marijuana-derived compounds.

Mice treated with HU210 did not perform better than untreated mice on memory tests, according to the report. Furthermore, mice given higher doses of the synthetic compound had fewer brain cells than other mouse cohorts. The synthetic compound doesn't appear to have any beneficial effects on mice with Alzheimer's, according to the researchers. They added that further studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of marijuana as a potential treatment option. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Current Alzheimer Research.