Researchers Are Looking at Cannabis Strains to Potentially Shut the Door on COVID-19
Did medical marijuana just get even better?
For some time, cannabis has been making its way out of the Wild West of anecdotal DIY medicine, and into the sophistication of the research lab. It used to be you found out about the health benefits of weed from your Aunt Sally — that cool, but weird relative that lives a little beyond the uptight borders of the rest of the family.
But what if scientists were validating everything that Aunt Sally always said about weed? Well, it’s happening. We’re kind of in those in-between stages where experts are proving Aunt Sally’s claims (at least some of them), and people are listening more and more.
This doesn’t mean that cannabis hasn’t always had health benefits; what it means is that chemists (now that laws have finally been loosened) are finally able to put it to the test — or rather, tons of tests. To find out what cannabis can do. To take medical marijuana to the next level.
Case in point …
For years, Canadian researchers Olga and Igor Kovalchuck have been diligently cracking away at new cannabis strains. This line of ganja genetics was originally pursued in the lab to combat terrorists to human health all over the globe, like cancer and inflammation. But when the coronavirus crisis hit, these reefer researchers began seeing the potential of their work to help fight COVID-19. Their impressive work so far can be found in the medical journal Preprints.
Why Cannabis to Combat the Coronavirus
First, you have to understand how SARS-CoV2 works. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it simple.
SARS-CoV2 is the virus (coronavirus) that causes the COVID-19 disease or coronavirus disease. (Think of how HIV is the virus that causes AIDS). Someone can have the virus without developing the disease.
The Lungs Are the Gateway Tissue
ACE2 is an enzyme that is found in high levels in the lung tissue (as well as in oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract). ACE2 is the receptor that SARS-CoV2 uses to gain entry to your system — a gateway.
SARS-CoV2 (coronavirus) is spread through respiratory droplets, giving it access to your lungs. The virus is designed to attach to the ACE2 receptors. And, problematically, it has a high binding capacity, 10-20 times more than original SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome, in case you were curious).
Once you know this, you can see that perhaps the best and simplest way to prevent COVID-19 is to decrease and block those ACE2 receptors. A kind of “You shall not pass” middle finger to the virus.
Cannabis, especially strains high in cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown to reduce gene expression (decrease the production of things like ACE2) and inflammation and possess anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
So why not try to use it to slam the door on the coronavirus?
From Theory to Proof
The Kovalchucks have not been messing around in the lab. According to their study’s abstract,
“Working under the Health Canada research license, we have developed over 800 new Cannabis sativa lines and extracts and hypothesized that high-CBD C. sativa extracts may be used to modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 target tissues.”
Can we pause for a moment to appreciate that researchers could have been working on things like this a long time ago, were it not for cannabis prohibition?
Over 800 strains.
After looking at the research done on cannabis and COVID-19 by other scientists, and performing their own tests, they were able to narrow down 13 high-CBD cannabis strain extracts “that modulate ACE2 gene expression and ACE2 protein levels.”
And what’s more, the strain could be potentially used to prevent the virus from being able to propagate once it’s already entered someone’s system.
The study’s research was carried out on 3D human tissue models, and while these results have successfully and crucially established a basis for the potential use of cannabis to prevent and fight the COVID-19 disease, it has not been clinically tested on humans yet, and thus remains a theory in need of larger-scale studies that prove it.
But the Kovalchucks and their colleagues may have just opened a door to closing the door on the coronavirus.
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