JUN 15, 2018 8:06 AM PDT

Marijuana chemical may keep HIV patients sharp

Researchers have found that a chemical in marijuana, called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, could potentially slow the process of mental decline that affects up to 50 percent of HIV patients.

“It’s believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain,” says Norbert Kaminski, director of the Institute for Integrative Toxicology at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, which appears in the journal AIDS.

“This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease,” Kaminski says.

Kaminski and his coauthor, Mike Rizzo, a graduate student in toxicology, discovered that the compounds in marijuana were able to act as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the number of inflammatory white blood cells, called monocytes, and decreasing the proteins they release in the body.

“This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer,” Rizzo says.

The two researchers took blood samples from 40 HIV patients who reported whether or not they used marijuana. Then, they isolated the white blood cells from each donor and studied inflammatory cell levels and the effect marijuana had on the cells.

“The patients who didn’t smoke marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use,” Kaminski says. “In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV.”

Kaminski has studied the effects of marijuana on the immune system since 1990. His lab was the first to identify the proteins that can bind marijuana compounds on the surface of immune cells. Up until then, it was unclear how these compounds, also known as cannabinoids, affected the immune system.

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, infects and can destroy or change the functions of immune cells that defend the body. With antiretroviral therapy—a standard form of treatment that includes a cocktail of drugs to ward off the virus—these cells have a better chance of staying intact.

Yet, even with this therapy, certain white blood cells can still be overly stimulated and eventually become inflammatory.

“We’ll continue investigating these cells and how they interact and cause inflammation specifically in the brain,” Rizzo says.

“What we learn from this could also have implications to other brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s since the same inflammatory cells have been found to be involved,” he adds.

Knowing more about this interaction could ultimately lead to new therapeutic agents that could help HIV patients specifically maintain their mental function.

“It might not be people smoking marijuana,” Kaminski says. “It might be people taking a pill that has some of the key compounds found in the marijuana plant that could help.”

Source: Michigan State University

 

This article was originally posted on Futurity.org

About the Author
  • Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
AUG 22, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
People with Depression Twice as Likely to Use Cannabis
AUG 22, 2020
People with Depression Twice as Likely to Use Cannabis
Researchers from Columbia University have found that people with depression are around twice as likely to use cannabis t ...
AUG 27, 2020
Health & Medicine
Marijuana Use Linked With Lower Intravenous Opioid Abuse
AUG 27, 2020
Marijuana Use Linked With Lower Intravenous Opioid Abuse
People who use cannabis every day for six months are a quarter (25 percent) more likely to stop injecting opioids than t ...
SEP 23, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Hemp Seeds May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
SEP 23, 2020
Hemp Seeds May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. And it seems that many methods to avoid it involve lifesty ...
OCT 05, 2020
Health & Medicine
Cannabis Chemotherapy Trial Shows Encouraging Phase II Results
OCT 05, 2020
Cannabis Chemotherapy Trial Shows Encouraging Phase II Results
Even with the best anti-nausea medications one in three patients receiving chemotherapy experiences vomiting, and about ...
OCT 14, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Users Remain Coy in Presence of Family
OCT 14, 2020
Cannabis Users Remain Coy in Presence of Family
A Canadian survey has found that 36 percent of cannabis users would consume cannabis during the holidays or other specia ...
JAN 14, 2021
Health & Medicine
Where There's Recreational Cannabis Junk Food Sales Are Higher
JAN 14, 2021
Where There's Recreational Cannabis Junk Food Sales Are Higher
In areas where recreational cannabis has been legalized, sales of “junk” foods such as ice cream, cookies an ...
Loading Comments...