01/07/2016 12:47 BST | Updated 01/07/2016 12:54 BST

Marijuana Compounds Found To Remove Alzheimer's Proteins From The Brain

Scientists have found evidence that some of the compounds within marijuana can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a protein commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease.

The team at Salk Institute found that in lab tests the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has the ability to slow the progression of the disease by not only preventing inflammation within the brain but also reducing the levels of plaque formation.

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Senior author of the paper Professor David Schubert said: "Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,"

Alzheimer's is a progressive neurological disease that will affect over a million people in the UK by 2050.

During the course of the disease amyloid beta proteins build up inside the brain causing the creation of plaques. These eventually lead to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue.

There have been numerous theories about what causes the build up of this plaque however a definitive answer remains elusive.

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A recent breakthrough suggests that actually Alzheimer's is the body's immune system attempting to fight a hidden infection.

Whether or not this is the case, if there is too high a quantity of these proteins inside the brain then nerve cells inevitably do die.

While THC compounds aren't being considered as a cure, their potential as a form of treatment is extremely promising.

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"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," says Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher in Schubert's laboratory and first author of the paper.

"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."

It's important to note that these trials have only been undertaken in laboratory conditions. Schubert emphasised that to truly know if THC can be effective there would need to be extensive clinical trials first.