Study finds that enzymes in cannabis could treat Covid-19

Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Canada recently released results from a study that shows the benefits of CBD - which is an extract from cannabis - as an aid in blocking the cells that enter the body from the novel coronavirus.

The study, published in peer journal Preprints, was conducted by the scientists in April, and the results were released in a non-peer-reviewed, preclinical study titled "In Search of Preventative Strategies: Novel Anti-Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Tissues" earlier this month, according to a release from pharmaceutical research company Pathway RX.

The study is a partnership among the university, Pathway, which works to develop cannabis therapies to treat specific diseases, and cannabinoid-based oral health company Swysh Inc.

The researchers in Alberta conducted a study using artificial 3D models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues coupled with a limited sample of high CBD Cannabis sativa extracts modulate ACE2 gene expression and ACE2 protein levels. The results indicated hemp extracts high in CBD may help block proteins that provide a "gateway" for COVID-19 to enter host cells.

"Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been generally accepted by the scientific community as a receptor required for the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells," said Dr. Igor Kovalchuk, CEO of Pathway Rx and holder of a Health Canada License for Cannabis Research. He added, "Our initial findings warrant further investigation but it's possible that medical cannabis products could become a safe adjunct therapy for the treatment of COVID-19."

The study results were recently shared publicly, and the research paper was submitted to a scientific journal for peer review, according to Pathway Rx.

Among the 1,000 Cannabis sativa varieties that have been screened by Pathway Rx, only a small number have expressed medicinal properties. The research company is seeking funding to continue its efforts to support scientific initiatives to address COVID-19.

"The Government of Canada's latest investment to support the health of Canadians creates a significant opportunity for Pathway Rx to advance our research and accelerate the development of custom therapies and products to help combat COVID-19," Kovalchuk said in a statement.

The results come as several countries lean upon the science community for answers on how to prevent and treat COVID-19. On Monday, President Donald Trump announced that for at least two weeks he has explored the drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the coronavirus. He also shared that front-line workers are taking the drug, which has been found by the FDA to cause serious heart problems.

Controversy continues to surround the medical solutions that have been purported as options to curb the spread of the virus, which, as of Tuesday, claimed the lives of more than 90,000 Americans and nearly 325,000 people across the globe.

By Stephanie Toone  of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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