Study suggests cannabis might be helpful in treating COVID-19

A new study conducted by researchers in Alberta, Canada, has yielded some interesting results concerning cannabis and the coronavirus.

Namely, the study, although it has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests cannabis extracts may help protect people from the novel coronavirus, which is responsible for the global health emergency that began earlier this year.

Scientists at the University of Lethbridge looked at 400 different cannabis strains, but have singled out about a dozen that appear to be able to reduce the number of virus receptors, some by as much as 73%. These ACE-2 receptors serve as an entry point for the SARS-CoV-2 into human 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,” Dr. Igor Kovalchuk, the head of the team, said in the study published in Journal Preprints.

“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,” Kovalchuk added while highlighting that the research won’t lead to a vaccine. 

Although Kovalchuk and his team still don’t know which compound may be responsible for their findings, CBD has shown the most potential. However, the issue of financing further research into this therapeutic potential of cannabis is a complicated one, according to Dr. Kovalchuk. 

He explained that despite clinicians having expressed willingness to partake in trials, the financial burden is currently too heavy for most cannabis companies. 

Kovalchuk, who also serves as CEO of the cannabis research company Pathway Rx, said he will be seeking funding from the Canadian government in order to advance the work. 

“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.

At the moment, about 110 COVID-19 vaccines are in development, eight of them in clinical trials. American companies Gilead Sciences and Moderna recently both reported that their respective medication and vaccine have shown promising results in early-stage trials.

Policymakers in a number of countries have stressed on multiple occasions that economic recovery and a complete return to our pre-virus lifestyles hinge on the speedy development and widespread availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.  

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