Researchers have found two cannabinoid acids that prevent the entry of the coronavirus into human cells
For over three years, scientists have been looking for the best and most effective ways to prevent and treat Covid-19. In this scenario, a study from Oregon State University (OSU) believes that cannabis may be one of the answers.
Studies are evaluating the therapeutic effects of cannabis, more specifically cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, to prevent the progression of COVID-19. As previosly known, these substances are used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, which could be beneficial for the care of patients with Covid.
According to laboratory studies, published in the Journal of Nature Products, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) can prevent the coronavirus from penetrating human cells. Both acids are commonly found in hemp varieties. Through an innovative chemical screening technique, performed by researchers at the University of Oregon (OSU), it was discovered that they bind to the spike protein of the coronavirus and, in this way, block a substance that the pathogen uses to infect. Scientists have by this time conducted laboratory tests with the alpha and beta variants of the new coronavirus, but have not yet performed human studies.
According to Richard Van Breemen, lead author of the study and researcher at OSU’s Global Center for Hemp Innovation, these cannabinoid acids are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. According to him, “our research showed that hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of Sars-Cov-2, including alpha, which was initially detected in the UK, and beta, detected for the first time in South Africa.”
Hemp is used in all kinds of products including food, cosmetics, body lotions, and dietary supplements. “These compounds, which can be taken orally, have a long history of safe use in humans,” says Van Breemen. “They have the potential to prevent and treat Sars-Cov-2 infection.”Sars-Cov-2 is characterized by crown-shaped bumps on its outer surface and has RNA strands that encode its four main structural proteins (spike, envelope, membrane, and nucleocapsid), in addition to 16 non-structural and several accessory proteins.
As stated by Van Breemen, every part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral measures. And an especially critical step in preventing infections is interfering with the binding of the spike protein receptor with the human cell surface receptor ACE2. The spike protein is precisely the target of the main available anti-covid vaccines, as well as monoclonal antibody therapies.
Preventing and shortening the duration of infection
The research authors believe that, although it is still in an early stage, cannabinoid acids can be used in medicines to prevent, treat or even shorten a coronavirus infection.
The components would block infection by binding to spike proteins and thus preventing them from binding to the ACE2 enzyme, abundant in the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs. Van Breemen emphasizes that the use of compounds that block the interaction between the virus and the receptor has already proved useful in patients with other viral infections, such as HIV-1 and hepatitis.
The advantage of these compounds is that they pose little risk and are easily found in the plant known as hemp and in many of its extracts. Hemp compounds are already present in industrial cosmetic products, body lotions, and dietary supplements, as well as used in animal feed and food production.
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