(Source: University of Bonn)
Scientists have found that the CB1 receptor has a signal system that protects nerve cells

Researchers from the University of Bonn and the University of Mainz have found a way to protect the brain from degeneration.

Professor Dr. Andreas Zimmer, team leader at the Institut für Molekulare Psychiatrie at the University of Bonn, along with Dr. Andras Bilkei-Gorzo, study leader on Zimmer's team, Önder Albayram, principal author on Zimmer's team, and a group of researchers, have discovered that a certain receptor can play a large role in preventing degeneration of the brain.

A receptor is a protein that is capable of binding to other substances which leads to a chain of signals. One receptor in particular, called the cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptor, allow cannabinoids like THC bind to it, which causes a person to feel the effect of marijuana for example. Now, researchers have found that this receptor plays a role in brain degeneration.

Scientists have found that the CB1 receptor has a signal system that protects nerve cells. When the receptor is switched off, the brain ages much faster.

Researchers were able to make this discovery by studying mice of all different ages, from six weeks old to 12 months old. They were each given the task to find a submerged platform in a pool, and when the researchers moved it, they had to find it again. This tested their ability to learn.

Some mice in each age group had the CB1 receptor turned off using gene technology while others had their CB1 receptor on. According to the results, mice with switched-off CB1 receptors performed more slowly and had a "diminished learning and memory capacity." Also, these mice showed a loss of hippocampus nerve cells, which is the part of the brain that forms and stores memories.

As the mice aged, those with the CB1 receptors turned off showed increased brain degeneration and inflammation processes in the brain. On the other hand, mice with CB1 receptors turned on were able to perform the tasks with normal learning and memory-related abilities, and their nerve cells remained healthy as they aged.

While this requires further research, scientists hope to use this information to develop therapies that protect the human brain from aging too quickly, preventing ailments like dementia

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