Updated: Mar 24
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A June 2011 preclinical peer-reviewed research study involving rodent subjects entitled "Neuroprotective Effects of Phytocannabinoid-based Medicines in Experimental Models of Huntington's Disease" that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research explored the potential efficacy of cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for one of the most common forms of dementia, Huntington's disease.
Understanding Huntington's Disease
Huntington's disease was discovered in 1872 by American physician George Huntington from Long Island, New York. According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, this condition "is a rare inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown (degeneration) of nerve cells in the brain."
Huntington's disease manifests with symptoms that include "movement, cognitive, and psychiatric disorders."
The disease manifests with symptoms that include "movement, cognitive, and psychiatric disorders" that feature "a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms." Making its diagnosis and treatment more difficult is the fact that visible symptoms vary considerably between Huntington's patients.
Huntington's Disease Symptoms
"Which symptoms appear first varies greatly from person to person," reported the Clinic. In addition, the symptoms that appear "can change throughout the course of the disease," making close medical monitoring critical to achieving positive outcomes through the application of the most appropriate therapies.
It explained that the symptoms of Huntington's can develop at any time, but typically appear when patients are in their 30s or 40s. "If the condition develops before age 20, it's called juvenile Huntington's disease," reported the Clinic, explaining that symptoms in youth "are somewhat different and the disease may progress faster." Some organizations, such as Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, employ the Huntington's labels "early-onset" and "adult-onset."
Huntington's is Genetic & Inherited
Unlike sibling forms of dementia like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the cause of Huntington's is known to be genetic in nature. In fact, it results from the combined genetic influence of the biological mother and father and, thus, is considered an inherited condition.
Unfortunately, no treatment or drug is available that can prevent the "physical, mental and behavioral decline associated with the condition."
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders in Danbury, Connecticut, "Huntington’s disease is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Human traits, including the classic genetic diseases, are the product of the interaction of two genes, one received from the father and one from the mother."
Unfortunately, no treatment or drug is available that can prevent the "physical, mental and behavioral decline associated with the condition," according to the Clinic.
Huntington's Disease Statistics
According to a 2012 peer-reviewed research study regarding the incidence and prevalence of the disease evaluated 13 previous studies and found that the "worldwide service-based prevalence of Huntington's disease was 2.71 per 100,000."
The study noted that "lower incidence [of Huntington's] was reported in Asian studies compared to the studies performed in Europe, North America, and Australia."
"In the United States, about one in every 10,000 people has Huntington's. If one parent is a carrier, there is a 50/50 chance that the child will have Huntington's Disease."
In the United States, about one in every 10,000 people has Huntington's. If one parent is a carrier, there is a 50/50 chance that the child will have Huntington's Disease.
The research investigation "studied whether combinations of botanical extracts enriched in either delta-9 THC or CBD, the main constituents of the cannabis-based medicine Sativex, provide neuroprotection in rat models of Huntington's disease."
Image courtesy Leafwize Naturals
Anti-inflammatory & Antioxidant
The rodent study subjects were administered THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio via the Sativex product. The study reported positive efficacy from this treatment in the subjects and attributed benefits to both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms involving the endocannabinoid system of the rodents (all mammals and, in fact, all vertebrates on Earth feature an endocannabinoid system that is very similar to that of humans).
"The CBD and THC combination reduced inflammation. The researchers also observed antioxidant benefits."
The CBD and THC combination reduced inflammation by reversing "the up-regulation of proinflammatory markers." The researchers also observed antioxidant benefits related to the binding of CBD and THC molecules with the primary cellular receptors of the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2.
"In conclusion, this study provides preclinical evidence in support of a beneficial effect of the cannabis-based medicine Sativex as a neuroprotective agent capable of delaying disease progression in Huntington's disease."
The study's authors also summarized that Huntington's disease is "currently poorly managed in the clinic" and that there is an "urgent need" for clinical trials involving humans based on the "positive results in preclinical studies."
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