Scientists develop new medical cannabis cultivars that show promise in combating COVID-19 virus
Green Cross Strong news – Lethbridge, Alberta Canada: University of Lethbridge reports 4.22.2020.
In partnership with the University of Lethbridge, Pathway RX, a research company focused on developing custom cannabis therapies, and Swysh, a company focused on cannabinoid research and development, have found that specific Cannabis sativa extracts show promise as an additional treatment for COVID-19.
“While our most successful extracts require further validation in a large-scale analysis and an animal model, our study is crucial for the future analysis of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19,” say Drs. Igor (CEO of Pathway RX) and Olga Kovalchuk, both U of L biology professors.
The Kovalchuks and a team of researchers recently submitted a paper about their research study on the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19 to a journal for publication and here is their manuscript: This research has not yet been peer reviewed or been published in a journal.
With the rapidly growing pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the new and challenging to treat zoonotic SARS-CoV2 coronavirus, there is an urgent need for new therapies and prevention strategies that can help curtail disease spread and reduce mortality. Inhibition of viral entry and thereby spread constitute plausible therapeutic avenues. Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract. Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility. Cannabis sativa, especially one high in the anti-inflammatory cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), has been proposed to modulate gene expression and inflammation and harbour anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Working under the Health Canada research license, we have developed over 800 new Cannabis sativa lines and extracts and hypothesized that high-CBD C. sativa extracts may be used to modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 target tissues. Screening C. sativa extracts using artificial human 3D models of oral, airway, and intestinal tissues, we identified 13 high CBD C. sativa extracts that modulate ACE2 gene expression and ACE2 protein levels. Our initial data suggest that some C. sativa extract down-regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, another critical protein required for SARS-CoV2 entry into host cells. While our most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, our study is crucial for the future analysis of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19. The extracts of our most successful and novel high CBD C. sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy. They can be used to develop easy-to-use preventative treatments in the form of mouthwash and throat gargle products for both clinical and at-home use. Such products ought to be tested for their potential to decrease viral entry via the oral mucosa. Given the current dire and rapidly evolving epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue must be considered.
The study focused on how certain cannabis extracts affected ACE2 and TMPRSS2 proteins. These proteins are imbedded into the cellular membrane and represent a key gateway for the COVID-19 virus to enter host cells. The researchers used C. sativa extracts to modulate the levels of these enzymes. Initial data suggest that 13 C. sativa extracts high in the anti-inflammatory CBD (cannabinoid cannabidiol) can modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 target tissues and down-regulate TMPRSS2. The results demonstrate that these high-CBD C. sativa lines have potential to become a useful and safe addition to COVID-19 treatment. They could be used to develop preventative treatments in the form of a mouthwash or throat gargle product for clinical and home use.
“Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue needs to be considered,” says Kovalchuk. “Our research team is actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials.”
Through Pathway RX, Kovalchuk has generated more than 1,000 C. sativa hybrids and tested them on human tissues and cells to learn about their biological activity. These varieties have been patented and are currently licensed to Sundial Growers, an Alberta-based licensed cannabis producer and partner of Pathway RX.