A team of Canadian scientists is testing whether or not marijuana compounds can block coronavirus infection.
Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta looked at 400 cannabis strains and focused on about a dozen that showed promise in preventing the virus from ‘hijacking’ our cells.
They say extracts of cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychoactive component of pot – helped lower the number of cell receptors available for coronavirus to attach to by more than 70 percent.
However, the team says people should not rush out and by cannabis products and that clinical trials are needed to confirm the results.
Researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada looked at 400 cannabis strains and focused on about a dozen (file image)
They studied how extracts high in CBD, the main nonpsychoactive ingredient in, interacted with receptors coronavirus uses to attack cells. Pictured: A nurse suctions the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, NY, April 20
For the study, published in the pre-peer reviewed journal Preprints, the scientists partnered with Pathway Rx, a cannabis therapy research company, and Swysh Inc, a cannabinoid-based research company.
The team created artificial 3D human models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues with a sample of high CBD extracts from Cannabis Sativa plants.
The extracts were low in THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Next, researchers tested the effect the extracts had on angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the receptors required for the virus to enter human cells.
Results showed that the extracts helped reduce the number of receptors that are the ‘gateway’ for the coronavirus to ‘hijack’ host cells.
The team, led by Dr Igor Kovalchuk (pictured) found the extracts lowered the number of receptors the virus uses to infects cells and multiply by more than 70%
‘A number of them have reduced the number of [virus] receptors by 73 percent, the chance of it getting in is much lower,’ lead researchers Dr Igor Kovalchuk, CEO of Pathway Rx, told The Calgary Herald.
‘If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.’
They also looked at other receptors such as TMPRSS2, which allows the virus to invade cells more easily and multiply quickly.
‘Imagine a cell being a large building,’ Kovalchuk told CTV News.
‘Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70 percent, so it means the level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it.’
However, the team says this does not mean that people should go out and buy marijuana products as prophylactics.
Cannabis and CBD products that are currently on the market are not designed to treat or prevent infection from COVID-19. Therefore, clinical trials are needed.
‘Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue needs to be considered,’ Kovalchuk said in an April press release.
‘Our research team is actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials.’
If trials proves to be successful, he says the CBD strains may be used as mouth wash, gargle, inhalants or gel caps,
‘It would be cheaper for people and have a lot less side-effects,’ Kovalchuk told The Herald.