Under the umbrella of depression and Alzheimer’s disease physiopathology: can cannabinoids be a dual-pleiotropic therapy?


Carla Fonseca, Miren Ettcheto, Joana Bicker, Maria José Fernandes, Amílcar Falcão, Antoni Camins, Ana Fortuna


July 5,  2023


Depression and Alzheimer´s disease (AD) are two disorders highly prevalent worldwide. Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide while AD affects 60% to 80% of the 55 million cases of dementia. Both diseases are affected by aging with high prevalence in elderly and share not only the main brain affected areas but also several physiopathological mechanisms. Depression disease is already ascribed as a risk factor to the development of AD. Despite the wide diversity of pharmacological treatments currently available in clinical practice for depression management, they remain associated to a slow recovery process and to treatment-resistant depression. On the other hand, AD treatment is essentially based in symptomatology relieve. Thus, the need for new multi-target treatments arises.

Herein, we discuss the current state-of-art regarding the contribution of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in synaptic transmission processes, synapses plasticity and neurogenesis and consequently the use of exogenous cannabinoids in the treatment of depression and on delaying the progression of AD. Besides the well-known imbalance of neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and glutamate, recent scientific evidence highlights aberrant spine density, neuroinflammation, dysregulation of neurotrophic factor levels and formation of amyloid beta (Aβ) peptides, as the main physiopathological mechanisms compromised in depression and AD. The contribution of the ECS in these mechanisms is herein specified as well as the pleiotropic effects of phytocannabinoids. At the end, it became evident that Cannabinol, Cannabidiol, Cannabigerol, Cannabidivarin and Cannabichromene may act in novel therapeutic targets, presenting high potential in the pharmacotherapy of both diseases.



DOI: 10.1016/j.arr.2023.101998


Fonseca, C., Ettcheto, M., Bicker, J., Fernandes, M. J., Falcão, A., Camins, A., & Fortuna, A. (2023). Under the umbrella of depression and Alzheimer’s disease physiopathology: can cannabinoids be a dual-pleiotropic therapy?. Ageing Research Reviews, 101998.