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With the lockdown restrictions easing, COVID-19 remains a very serious health threat worldwide. Dozens of coronavirus vaccines are in development across the world in combined global effort with high hopes to bring one to the market in record time to ease the global crisis.
One interesting candidate is cannabidiol or CBD. Recent research shows it may help fight COVID-19.
What the research says
According to a study conducted at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, those with raised CBD levels could reduce the adverse effect of coronavirus on the human body by examining hundreds of cannabis strains. Cannabis Sativa strains are high in CBD, and scientists could develop this core cannabis component to develop preventative treatments such as mouthwash products for both clinical and home use.
The research was carried out by Drs. Olga and Igor Kovalchuk, professors at the University of Lethbridge’s Department of Biological Sciences, along with researchers from Pathway RX, under a research license from Health Canada at the University of Lethbridge, which continues to actively pursue partnerships to conduct clinical trials.
Results from the study show that that hemp extracts high in CBD could potentially act as a barrier against the protein that provides a gateway in certain tissues for COVID-19 to enter host cells by balancing levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2). The virus can enter the host cells via ACE2, and inflecting those levels in the lung, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, nasal mucosa, and testes would reduce the host’s susceptibility to COVID-19 significantly.
Could the research open up a gateway to unimaginable possibilities?
Medicinal properties of CBD
The screening of cannabis sativa extracts conducted at the university using 3D models of human airway, intestinal and oral tissues, led to a significant discovery, bringing forth that 13 of the extracts high in CBD were capable of modulating ACE2 effectively. The extracts, although high in CBD, have an especially low THC content. THC is the chemical component of cannabis that gives the plant its psychedelic effect, meaning that the near absence of THC in CBD ensures there will be no “high” from the extract; CBD oil isn’t marijuana or a means to get high, even if it comes from the same plant used as a recreational drug.
“That’s one big misconception about CBD that has slowed down the adoption of this widely unexplored extract,” says Daniel Levitt, CEO of CBD oil maker, bioMD+. “CBD has a lot of intriguing health benefits that we’re just now discovering.”
The urgency of finding any way to slow down the pandemic is part of why researchers conducted the study.
“Given the current dire and rapid evolution of the epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue should be considered,” Kovalchuk and the team concluded in the paper.
The selection of strains is conducted meticulously based on preclinical data while understanding how these specific strains affect the cells and tissues along with the processes that underlie specific diseases.
“This is unlike the generic cannabis used for recreational purposes; not just any cannabis would do the trick,” Olga stressed.
If the team receives a positive response from the peer reviews, the clinical trials could expand significantly and create applications for new varieties of cannabinoids that are being developed and could further challenge the negative perceptions revolving around cannabis. Documented information regarding CBD’s effectiveness in combating cancer, inflammation, anxiety, obesity, and many other health ailments is starting to build, lending increasing credibility to CBD as a tool in the doctor’s toolbox.
Gathering further data
Other parties, including an Israeli startup named Stero Biotechs’, are examining CBD’s medical potential to help with COVID-19. The company was set to launch a clinical trial amidst the spike of coronavirus cases with 10 Covid-19 patients at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva when the hospital ran out of patients. Several other medical centers closed down due to a sudden decrease in cases, leading them to turn their focus towards Europe where the coronavirus cases remain high.
With the cases increasing in Israel again, Stero Biotechs’ may be able to resume them locally after all. Stero aims to determine if CBD can be used to effectively enhance the effect of corticosteroids, which are used as a key treatment for autoimmune illnesses.
Further studies are required to verify and approve CBD-centric solutions suitable for patients suffering from COVID-19. The need is to formulate effective treatments to slow down and ultimately stop the pandemic in any way possible, even if the path leads through cannabis.