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Treating COVID-19 patients in new study, a ray of hope

covid 19 and cannabis

Cannabinoids exhibit in vitro anti-inflammatory activity in COVID-19-related inflammation in lung epithelial cells and pro-inflammatory activity in macrophages

A new Israeli study conducted in Volcani Institute and published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports found hope in cannabis components to treat corona patients in stage two, the most dangerous stage of the disease. However, there are still challenges to reach the conclusion. “There are real hopes,” declared Professor Hinanit Koltai, one of the authors of this study.

Prof Hkoltai 2019 Jpg
Professor Hinanit Koltai

The health benefits of cannabis are well-known, as evidenced by nearly 80000 medical cannabis patients in Israel and millions more around the world. The name of the plant has been mentioned several times in the context of the corona epidemic, both in the form of “News“, with false headlines like “cannabis cures corona” or with unsupported claims by researchers or allegations appearing next to stock market reports ofpseudo-revolutionary studies who have not yet given serious publications.

Last week there may have been a slight change in trend on the subject, with the publication of a new study study on covid-19 conducted by Prof. Hinanit Koltai and Dr. Guy Mahraz of the Volcanic Institute, conducted in collaboration with the Biological Services Unit of Bar Ilan University.

The study was published in the prestigious international scientific journal Scientific Reports, but before that it successfully underwent a rigorous peer review process, in which everything was combed through and reviewed by other researchers, anonymously and this study received the scientific seal of approval. .

Cannabis for the treatment of corona virus patients?

We carried out the research for about 9 months and so since the start of the pandemic,” says Professor Coltai, “I can tell you that there is hope for a treatment for corona patients, that is. is a different vision of the future.

Just before going into more detail, the professor seeks to say something essential about coronary heart diseases themselves: “contagion has two stages” she explains, “the first is the stage where the virus penetrates. the cells, the first cells attacked being the epithelial cells

“Epithelial cells are cells found in many places in the body. They cover the lungs, but also inside the mouth, or throughout the digestive system, for example. These cells are on the front line and are therefore the first to be attacked by the virus, then inflammation occurs.”

“Once these cells are attacked, what happens is the body's immune system kicks in, fights the virus and tries to kill it. In the first stage, which is the benign phase, the cells of the immune system are called macrophages, and they are actually the cells of the immune system that protect us, stand on the front line, fight the virus and manage to eliminate it or eliminate it. In fact, what happens is that the immune system defeats the corona, and as we know, most patients only go through the first stage and recover. “

Corona Cannabis study
Microscopic image of a macrophage cell (Photo: Eddie Blausov, Volcanic Institute. In blue: cell nucleus, in red: cell membrane and in green: cell skeleton)

And what happens in the second stage?

“If the disease develops in the second, more severe stage, acute inflammation develops, called in professional language “cytokine storm”. This storm involves healthy epithelial cells as well as cells of the immune system. These cells enter a state of overexcitement, begin to secrete proteins and actually cause the most acute inflammation throughout the body, and especially health. In fact, in the second stage of the disease, corona makes our body attack itself and that is also what we die from. “

At this point, the research of Professor Koltai and Dr. Mahraz comes into play. “We know that cannabis is very good at fighting infections,” says Koltai. ? Another question we asked is, of course, what substances in cannabis can do this. “

How did you check it?

“In the first part of the study, we looked at healthy epithelial cells. We “annoyed” them in the same way that the corona virus upsets them, and tested whether cannabis, or anything in cannabis, manages to calm them down. This test, like all the tests in the study, we did in the laboratory on human cell lines.

“We actually cut the cannabis extract into sections that are constructed from the active ingredients it contains, and check how each section affects the epithelial cells that have been attacked and if it manages to calm them down. For the study, we used a high-CBD cannabis strain, a completely commercial strain called 'Arbel', but it could be any high-CBD strain. “

And what have you discovered? 

“We got amazing results with both one section of cannabis rich in CBD and another section, richer in THC. Then what we found is that we need a certain composition of active ingredients found in cannabis, which contains a combination of CBD, CBG and THCV, which are the ones that give the best activity on them. cells that we have irritated. We have found that these substances reduce inflammation of the epithelial cells in the lungs very well. 

In addition, we have found that the same substances also lower the expression level of the virus 'receptor'. After all, this virus enters human cells in a very specific way - it binds to a receptor, a receptor called ACE2 which is found in our cells anyway, and then replicates inside the cell and causes its damage. 

“These receptors, which are present in our cells in the lungs, in the blood vessels, in the heart and in many other places, were of course not intended to allow a virus like corona to enter the cells. They have very important roles, such as various physiological actions in cells, maintaining water balance and more, but unfortunately, the virus is “caught” on them and enters cells through them. 

“We found that cannabis lowers, to some extent, the amount of these receptors on cells and that is a very interesting aspect of the activity of cannabis against the virus.”

"There is hope"

In the next phase of the study, researchers tested the effect of cannabis on immune system cells, and here's the twist.

"We took the cells of the immune system, the same macrophages, and we also irritated them because the virus irritates them and tested the ability of substances in cannabis to lower that level of inflammation, or the storm level of cytokines that we talked earlier, ”says Prof Coltai.

“After seeing the good results in everything to do with healthy epithelial cells, we also wanted to examine what happens when we combine the active ingredients in cannabis with the cells of the immune system that are healthy, and they are actually the ones. that fight the virus.

“We wondered what cannabis does to cells of the immune system, and here a not-so-pleasant surprise awaited us. It turns out that cannabis activates, i.e. creates a new action or stimulates and increases the existing action in these cells, which may not only not improve their response to the corona virus, but even make it worse, because as we said before, in the second stage of the crown, these cells begin to secrete proteins and cause inflammation. Extremely spicy.

“This finding raised a red flag and was of course very concerning for us, but we looked at it in several ways. We've seen that when you find cannabis, these immune system cells become more active, and that has a good side because cannabis actually encourages the immune system cells to be more active and eliminate more bacteria or bacteria. virus. On the other hand, in this case of Corona war, it is actually these cells that create the inflammation and their action should not be encouraged. “

It was bad news for investigators, but according to Koltai, there is also good news. “What we are currently doing is looking at all kinds of cannabis compositions, in order to find the best compositions which, on the one hand, will reduce inflammation of healthy epithelial cells, and on the other hand will not increase not the activity of immune cells and even will calm them. 

“Ultimately, we found that cannabis substances have anti-inflammatory activity in lung cells and that there is nice activity of cannabis on healthy epithelial cells, but its activity on cells of the lung immune system needs to be improved. This will be the subject of our next study, and we can say that there is hope. “

Tags : Health BenefitsTherapeutic CannabinoidsMedical Research
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