Cannabis is in constant study within the scientific community and the medical field. Its abilities to help physical and mental ailments are pondered each day. As COVID-19 began its destructive path across the world, some researchers wondered if a cannabis COVID treatment was a viable option. Here are some of the findings on cannabis and covid.
Pharmaceutical company GB Sciences and Michigan State University partnered to develop a cannabis-based drug benefiting those who suffer from symptoms of COVID-19. Dr. Andrea Small-Howard, Chief Science Officer of GB Sciences, is one of many working on utilizing compounds from the marijuana plant for the treatment of severe symptoms associated with the disease. One of which is a strong inflammatory response, which leads to an overworked immune system and lung shut down. “When your immune system doesn’t quite know how to process something that’s attacking your body, it throws everything at it that can lead to problems, like acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is one of the leading causes of death in COVID-19 patients,” Dr. Small-Howard said.
Michigan State University Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology Norbert Kaminski and Dr. Small-Howard have found in pre-clinical trials compounds from the cannabis plant help reduce inflammation in the lungs connected to the virus. “We are now testing them using human white blood cells to see how effective they are alone as well in various combinations,” Professor Kaminski said. The trials could take about a year to a year and a half to complete.
In Alberta, Canada, University of Lethbridge biology professors, Igor and Olga Kovalchuk, have shifted focus from their previous work of working with cannabis strains from around the world to create new hybrids that demonstrate certain therapeutic properties. Now, cannabis and COVID are in their spotlight. Professors Kovalchuk and Kovalchuk have investigated how specific cannabis extracts could be used as additional treatments to help reduce the spread of the virus and ease some symptoms. The studies, titled ‘In Search of Preventative Strategies’ and ‘Fighting the Storm’ found certain cannabis extracts help prevent the virus from entering a person’s cells, and can also help to avoid cytokine storms which can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome. When the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters a person’s cells, it targets a specific protein on the surface of the cell called ACE2. “The virus recognizes this cell as infectable by the presence of the ACE2 receptor,” said Dr. Kovalchuk. The findings have since been peer-reviewed and published in one of the top biomedical journals, Aging.
The professors have partnered with American-based Good Pharmaceutical Development Company which, with the scientific data collected by the Kovalchuks, has developed a therapeutic oral rinse to combat the virus. A clinical study is currently underway, but the findings thus far have been positive. “We’ve developed a clinical score that details in a numerical way patients’ symptoms at the onset of the study. Things like the presence or absence of fever, the height of the fever, the presence or absence of chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of taste and loss of smell, and we gave them a numerical score based upon the severity,” said the company’s president Dr. Larry Good. “In an interim analysis of our data, we have found a very significant reduction in that score.” The number of days it takes for taste and smell to return is also being tracked. Both professors and Dr. Good have stressed how specific these cannabis strains are, and no one should consider general cannabis consumption as a treatment or preventative measure against COVID-19.
Role of Cannabis in States Without Legalization
The connections between cannabis and COVID are under review even in states that have not legalized recreational use, such as Nebraska and Texas. The University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute professionals are recommending scientists study the anti-inflammatory properties found in CBD as a possible treatment for coronavirus-related lung inflammation. Emily Earlenbaugh, co-founder of Mindful Cannabis Consulting, explained recently that in severe cases of COVID-19, the body’s immune system overreacts and releases too many cytokines. Earlenbaugh noted “cytokines will normally help to create inflammation to fight off infections, but in these extreme cases, you see so much cytokines being released into the system that it creates a cytokine storm. You might see high fever, inflammation, severe fatigue and nausea, and in serious cases, it can lead to death through organ failure.” Per Earlenbaugh, CBD is known from previous research as an IL-6 cytokine inhibitor. Side effects are being studied in addition to ways to utilize CBD for COVID-19 treatment. Similar studies are in the works in Austria.
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