New findings suggest a chemical in marijuana can prevent some people from going blind.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic eye disease that leads to severe
vision loss and blindness. The disease affects 1 in 4,000 people and
But a study published this month in Experimental Eye Research shows chemicals in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, may be able to slow this down.
Using a synthetic form of THC, the compound responsible for marijuana’s high, researchers at the University of Alicante in Spain were able to prevent vision loss in rats with the disorder.
“These data suggest that cannabinoids are potentially useful to delay retinal degeneration in retinitis pigmentosa patients,” wrote Dr. Nicolás Cuenca, the study’s lead author.
At the end of 90 days, rats that received treatment performed better on vision tests and had 40% more photoreceptors than untreated rats. THC also seemed to protect a number of other eye structures, including inner layers of the retina.
Although encouraging, the results were not much of a surprise. As the team notes, cannabinoids have shown promise in treating a variety of degenerative disorders, ranging from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to diabetes and stroke.
Marijuana has also been reported to help in other eye diseases like glaucoma.