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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Can weed protect you from COVID?

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Fikadu Tafesse did not expect to wake up on Wednesday with a text in which his former mentor blamed him for his children’s new interest in grass. Earlier this week, Tafesse, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Oregon Health & Science University, published evidence that some compounds found in cannabis plants could prevent coronavirus from infecting cells. The Internet clung to the idea that weeds could protect them from COVID: Twitter users made memes about the resin bong Supposedly protecting their lungs from infection, Tafesse’s mentor’s children learned about the miraculous healing powers of the weeds, and the nocturnal hosts reveled in the incongruous simplicity of marijuana, perhaps succeeding wherever health measures public debates and changes had failed.

And it would be simple, right? Today, CBD stores are invading abandoned storefronts like an opportunistic mold; THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes users feel high, is now legal in 18 states. It doesn’t matter if the cannabinoid compounds tested in the study were CBDA and CBGA, no the best known CBD and THC; in the end, they all come from cannabis plants. The raw cannabis flower contains CBDA and CBGA, as do CBD oils, albeit in small amounts.

But frequent users of cannabis products should not be considered immune, no matter how thick a layer of bong resin may cover their lungs. “This is a complete misinterpretation,” says Tafesse. “This is just a lab study. We didn’t do any clinical trials, not even [use] an animal model ”.

What the researchers did was test whether CBDA and CBGA could, when mixed with cells in a dish, protect them from coronavirus infection. They had a good reason for doing so: they had previously observed that these cannabinoids bind to the coronavirus ear protein, which the virus uses to attach to and enter cells. Monoclonal antibodies also bind to this protein, and this is how they protect people from COVID: with another molecule attached to it in the right way, the tip protein is effectively useless. With enough CBDA or CBGA mixed into cultured cells, Tafesse found, these compounds could also stop the infection.

“It’s an interesting first observation,” says Nevan Krogan, director of the Institute for Quantitative Biosciences at the University of California, San Francisco. “But it takes a lot more work to say there’s value here.”

After all, working on a Petri dish is a relatively low bar for a drug to be removed. Conventional wisdom in pharmaceutical science holds that out of every 10,000 drugs that show potential efficacy, only one will hit the market. Dish experiments should be followed with animal studies, followed by the rigorous glove of human trials. And between cells and humans, there are many things that can go wrong. In a dish, scientists can deliver a drug exactly where it is needed, but it is difficult to know in advance how the drugs will move through a body and whether they will reach the intended targets, such as the lungs and upper respiratory tract. At this stage, it is impossible to know how CBDA and CBGA will go, but the odds are not fantastic.

Other drugs that showed a similar initial promise for the treatment of COVID-19 have failed dramatically, harming users and sowing political discord in the process. Ivermectin, azithromycin, and hydroxychloroquine fought coronavirus infection in cells, but we now know that they do nothing to prevent or treat COVID in humans. But at least cannabinoids are largely safe; humans have been guinea pigs in their phase 1 for millennia. Richard van Breemen, a professor of medical chemistry at Oregon State University and lead author of the paper, hopes his well-known safety will help him and his team introduce compounds into human trials sooner.

Even if cannabinoids work better than anyone could have imagined in these trials, there will still be no reason to smoke more leeks or eat more weed brownies, at least when it comes to COVID. CBDA and CBGA are, in a way, the best known “raw” form of CBD and CBG (THCA has the same role as THC). When users smoke cannabis or bake it in sweets, they heat up the CBDA, CBGA, and THCA, making them their shorter-named counterparts. If you want to take drugs, this is good news, as THCA has no psychological effect. However, if your goal is CBDA and CBGA, you will need to look for another method of administration. Versus Twitter, bong resin does not contain any CBDA or CBGA, and smoking weeds, like all types of smoking, could increase the risk of COVID complications.

It is not impossible to get the CBDA. Some online stores sell it in the form of tincture, although it seems like they have recently been launched in some places, and you can always eat a cannabis plant if you are really desperate. If the idea of ​​consuming oils of unpleasant taste with unknown health benefits attracts, it is unlikely to cause any harm, although van Breemen warns that “the recommended doses are there for a reason.”

But depending on how much cannabinoids scientists have had to administer to protect cells, Joshua Brown, a professor of pharmaceutical results and policies at the University of Florida, believes that these recommended doses are very unlikely to have a effects. And for an oil that probably does nothing, CBDA is expensive, between $ 2 and $ 4 per recommended dose. To have even a chance to protect yourself, Brown estimates, you would have to spend more than $ 60 a day, and the safety of such large doses is unknown, as van Breemen pointed out.

“It simply came to our notice then [users] anyway, except financially, “says Brown. But at this stage, he adds, there is also very little evidence to help.” The main benefit we could get from cannabis right now, “he says,” is just relaxation. “

Future Tense is an association of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.

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