Scientists from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada are testing whether or not marijuana compounds can prevent coronavirus from ‘hijacking’ human cells.
The team of Canadian researchers says extracts of cannabidiol (CBD) helped reduce the number of cell receptors available for the virus to attach to by over 70 percent.
But the scientists say people shouldn’t go out and buy cannabis products right away as more clinical trials are still required.
Published in the journal Preprints, the researchers partnered with Swysh Inc, a cannabinoid-based research company, and Pathway Rx, a cannabis therapy research company.
The scientists made artificial 3D human models of oral, intestinal tissues and airway with a sample of high CBD extracts from Cannabis Sativa plants. The extracts had low levels of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Then, they tested the effect of extracts on angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 the receptors needed for the virus to penetrate human cells.
Dr. Igor Kovalchuk, the lead researcher, said to The Calgary Herald: “A number of them have reduced the number of [virus] receptors by 73 percent, the chance of it getting in is much lower.
“If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.”
The team also looked at other receptors such as TMPRSS2, which lets the virus multiply quickly and invade human cells more easily.
“Imagine a cell being a large building,” he 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.”
But the researchers say this doesn’t mean people should rush to purchase cannabis products as those available on the market are not designed to prevent or treat coronavirus infection.
“Our research team is actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials,” Kovalchuk said.
If trials prove to be successful, Kovalchuk said the CBD strains may be used as gel caps, inhalant or mouth wash.
“It would be cheaper for people and have a lot less side-effects,” he said in an interview with The Herald.
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