Could cannabis help treat COVID-19?
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
There is a massive global effort underway to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. But in the meantime, new prevention strategies and therapies are sorely needed.
One promising Canadian study indicates that certain enzymes in cannabis could help treat the disease. It highlights cannabis’ benefits as an aid in blocking the cells that enter the body from the novel coronavirus.
Overview of the study
The study is a partnership between Pathway RX, a pharmaceutical research company; the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta; and cannabinoid-based oral health company Swysh Inc. Inhibition of viral entry could stem the spread of the disease, reduce mortality, and lead to plausible therapeutic avenues. The team has identified 13 high-in-CBD cannabis plants that can affect ACE2 pathways and block the virus’ entry into host cells.
We now know that COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets like other respiratory pathogens, which can then spread to the oral and nasal mucosa, lung tissue, and kidneys. Researchers used artificial 3D models of the gastrointestinal tract, airway, and oral and intestinal tissues to conduct the study.
With these, they coupled some high ACE2 protein levels and ACE2 gene expression. They found that the proteins that facilitate COVID-19’s entry into the body may be blocked by hemp extracts that are high in CBD.
The research is in its initial stages, has been submitted for peer review, and is pending further investigation. The partnership is confident that it can contribute to the safe and useful treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy. It could also prove crucial for future studies on the overall effects of medical cannabis.
The findings require further large-scale validation, but researchers found that cannabis could reduce the virus' entry points by 70% or more, giving patients a good chance to fight it. It also has the potential to reduce infection by 70 to 80%, a cause for hope. So far, the scientists have found only a small number of Cannabis sativa varieties to have medicinal properties among the thousands they have screened.
The next step
The current findings are based on human tissue models. With support and funding, the organizations hope to continue their efforts, refine their search and come up with therapeutic solutions to combat the rapidly evolving epidemiological situation.
The team is actively pursuing clinical trials as the next step to see the effects of its work. The next step is to develop preventative treatments in the form of easy-to-use products like throat gargle and mouthwash for both clinical and at-home use. At this point, scientists say that they haven't tested the effects of smoking cannabis.
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