COVID-19Industry updateWeed impedes entry of Covid-19 into cells: study

Consuming cannabis can keep the novel coronavirus from entering your cells by dismantling structures it needs to survive, research suggests
Natalia Buendia Calvillo Natalia Buendia CalvilloFebruary 17, 20219 min

Medical researchers have found that some high-CBD sativa cultivars can stop strains of the novel coronavirus virus from entering a cell by inhibiting proteins the virus needs to dock onto a cell and trigger inflammation.

Cannabidiol has already proven to have strong anti-inflammatory properties via blocking proteins, in particular the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) that is essential for Covid-19 insertion.

Read more: CBD can treat physical and mental Covid-19 symptoms: study

Read more: Ikänik Farms-led study suggests cannabis oil slows coronavirus replication

A new review study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology by researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta looked into the complex molecular structures and mechanisms of inflammation where cannabinoids can be used to reduce Covid symptoms.

Inflammasomes are protein complexes that occur in cells in the presence of microbes and certain viruses, such as the coronavirus. These complexes are critical regulators of inflammation and their dysregulation leads to acute and chronic inflammation disorders.

Weed impedes the entry of Covid-19 into cells - study - Covid diagram
Transmission and life-cycle of SARS-CoV-2 causing Covid-19. Image from Funk CD, Laferrière C and Ardakani A (2020) A Snapshot of the Global Race for Vaccines Targeting SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 Pandemic via Wikimedia Commons

“Cannabis has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory effects owing to its constituents, cannabinoids and terpenoids,” the study reads. “New evidence is accumulating on the potential inhibitory action of cannabinoids on NLRP3 and other inflammasomes leading to their potent anti-inflammatory effects.”

Before the pandemic, inflammasome-targeted therapy was beginning to catch the eye of pharmaceutical companies for its potential to treat cancer, autoimmune disorders and other inflammatory diseases.

“The exact molecular mechanisms by which cannabinoids modulate inflammasome signaling have not been investigated completely, nevertheless, the current evidence supports their importance as promising therapeutic targets to regulate inflammasome signaling,” the review authors say.

Cannabidiol specifically is suggested for future research, as it’s shown to be more effective in treating inflammation due to the receptors it acts on.

“In general, cannabinoids work by inducing apoptosis, preventing cell proliferation, reducing cytokine production, and enhancing T-regulatory cells (Tregs) to produce anti-inflammatory effects,” the authors continue. In other words, cannabinoids reduce the negative impacts of the body’s own immune response.

Kovalchuks developing cannabis-based anti-Covid mouthwash

Weed impedes the entry of Covid-19 into cells - study - Olga Kovalchuk
Researcher Olga Kovalchuck is studying how cannabis can mitigate harms caused by the body’s immune response. Photo via University of Lethbridge

One of the review’s lead researchers, Olga Kovalchuk, has been part of other studies that describe how Covid symptoms can worsen due to pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines, and how anti-inflammatories such as cannabinoids can reduce their effects.

Those proteins can cause a molecular “cytokine storm” that leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which can cause lung fibrosis, a serious and untreatable condition.

According to the university’s official newsletter, Kovalchuk has used human 3D-printed skin models, lung fibroblast cell cultures and 3D-printed lung tissues in her studies and she’s hopeful that clinical trials can be done soon.

Kovalchuk and her partner Igor Kovalchuk, another leading medical researcher, have joined forces with a U.S.-based company in order to test one of their sativa extracts in a mouthwash to help mitigate inflammation to reduce the severity and duration of Covid-19.

“We are honoured to work with them and we’re excited that they are interested in our work,” she said in a statement.

“The clinical study is ongoing, but nearing completion and we’re really hopeful.”

Top image: A computer-generated representation of Covid-19 virions (SARS-CoV-2) under an electron microscope by Filipe Esquivel Reed via Wikimedia Commons

 

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