Huntington’s disease is known as the fatal genetic disorder that causes a progressive breakdown of the nerve cells. HD diminishes a person’s physical and mental abilities over time, often causing uncontrollable and impulsive movements. As of yet, there’s no cure for HD.
However, a recent study shows that smoking cannabis may slow down the progression of Huntington’s Disease. The mental and physical inabilities and impulses patients experience over time, are directly linked to the striatum – the brain’s area that controls the brains outputs (thoughts and actions). This area is known to carry CB1 receptors, which are cannabinoid receptors, but patients with HD have a reduced amount of these receptors.
Researchers in Madrid sought to learn about the connection between reduced cannabinoid receptors and the development and progression of the disease. In their experiment, they used mice that carried the HD gene (the human version) and expressed a decreased amount of receptors and compared them to mice only carrying the HD gene.
The researchers then ran tests that examined motor coordination, exploration and strength. The results were astonishing: The mice that carried HD and also had reduced CB1 receptors, had their HD symptoms appear about 30 days sooner when compared to the mice only carrying the HD gene. Also, the disease in the first group of mice seemed to develop rapidly compared to the other mice.
Researchers also noted that the lack of CB1 receptors was linked to the breakdown of the nerve cells, causing the striatum to function ineffectively.
As the last part of the experiment, the researchers gave the mice carrying the HD gene only, doses of THC. Since this group of mice didn’t appear to have lost a significant amount of CB1 receptors, they would still be receptive to the THC. The Spanish researchers wanted to see if administering THC in the HD carrying mice would make the CB1 receptors stronger.
The THC enhanced the motor skills in the mice, decreased the progression of symptoms and helped the functionality of the striatum. The experiment proved that some THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) can have a huge impact on those suffering from HD.
No, THC hasn’t been crowned the king of conquering Huntington’s Disease, but cannabis with THC can help curtail and prolong the symptoms of a disease that over 30,000 Americans are battling.