Antonio Currais, a Salk researcher in Schubert’s lab and one of the authors on the paper, highlighted the importance of the discovery. “Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” said Currais. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”

Cannabis has long been shown to reduce inflammation, with some scientists suggesting that it be used as a novel anti-inflammatory drug. Researchers explained this in a study from 2010, writing that the drug’s active ingredients “control the cellular pathways leading to inflammatory response.” These properties are part of what makes cannabis an effective treatment for autoimmune disorders, as well as chronic pain.

Many studies have explored its benefits in this area, but few have investigated its potential to have an impact on those with Alzheimer’s. It’s a population that’s desperately in need of solutions.