Cannabidiol’s (CBD) anti-inflammatory properties could be harnessed to treat or prevent COVID-19, according to a new study.
Researchers have reported that Cannabis sativa, especially extracts high in the anti-inflammatory cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), has been found to alter gene expression and inflammation and harbour anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. The Canadian researchers, from a range of institutions including the University of Lethbridge and University of Calgary, developed over 800 new C. sativa cultivars and hypothesised that high-CBD C. sativa extracts may be used to down-regulate angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression in target COVID-19 tissues.
Using artificial three-dimensional (3D) human models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues, the team showed that high-CBD C. sativa extracts may down-regulate ACE2 expression in target COVID-19 tissues, suggesting the potential of these extracts for COVID-19 prevention. Overall, they identified 13 high-CBD C. sativa extracts that decrease ACE2 protein levels. According to the researchers, high levels of ACE2 expression in oral epithelial tissues suggests that the oral cavity could be highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and thus an important target for prevention strategies.
Some C. sativa extracts also down-regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, another critical protein required for SARS-CoV-2 entry into host cells.
While their most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, the researchers say their study is important for future analyses of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19. The extracts of their most successful novel high-CBD C. sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy.
“While our most efficacious extracts require further validation through large-scale analyses, our study is important for future analyses of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19. Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity needs to be considered and researched,” wrote the authors in their paper.