Cannabinoids Fight HIV—the Next Potential Cure?
July 15th, 2013
Categories : Blog
Cannabis and the research surrounding its use as medicine are continuing to expand throughout the medical industry and popular culture today. News casts and magazines now feature lengthy parts on THC and cannabis’ various medicinal effects, including their ability to curb and kill cancer cells, treat leukemia and anorexia, and be used as an oxygen loss preventive during and after surgery given to brain-damaged patients.
Now, a study published in The Journal of Leukocyte Biology by a Philadelphia research team at the Temple University School of Medicine has discovered that THC helped fight off the HIV virus in their trials, making it a very possible effective treatment for HIV.
So, medicinal science ahead.
Macrophages are a type of white blood cell in humans, found less commonly than lymphocytes and specialized in dealing with damaged and dying cells. The HIV virus targets macrophages quickly after infecting a human host, and it can survive within the macrophage for periods of up to months.
As it lives in the macrophage, it travels around the bloodstream and eventually infects other cells throughout the body. Because of this, many researchers are trying to find ways to stop HIV from infecting the macrophages, knowing that it would slow down the infection, possibly halting it or even getting rid of it completely.
As it happens, macrophages have cannabinoid receptors. CB2 receptors are common throughout the human immune and digestive system.
The team did trials on macrophages, infecting them with HIV-1. HIV-1 is the most common strain of the HIV virus, making up more than ninety percent of all HIV virus types. And while THC is a natural compound, the research team used a synthetic form in their trials to ensure its clinical purity, making sure that the CB2 receptors would be the only variables with any changing effects during the experiments.
First, they infected their test macrophages with HIV-1. Leaving a control group, the team then tested out three different types of synthetic cannabinoids that have particularly high affinities for CB2 receptors. After only a week, they compared the groups to the control. They saw that the macrophages that had been exposed to the cannabinoids had developed a much stronger resistance to the HIV-1 virus, and their infection rates had dramatically fallen. Essentially, the stimulation of the macrophages’ CB2 receptors had toughened up their overall resistance to the infection. As an advantage to using the specific cannabinoids, there was also little to no CB1 receptor activity, indicating that use of them on humans would result in greatly reduced psychoactive effects, which many medicinal users find debilitating and too intense.
And an author of the study who works as a pathologist at Temple University, Yuri Persidsky, says that the effects of CB2-specific cannabinoids on HIV are definitely not the limit to their potential in treating and curing deadly conditions. “As compounds like these are improved further and made widely available, we will continue to explore their potential to fight other viral diseases that are notoriously difficult to treat.”