Saturday, June 27, 2020

Two researchers hope to use cannabis to 'temporarily close the doors' on coronavirus

In this Friday, May 8, 2020 photo shows a mature marijuana plant flowering prior to harvest under artificial lights at Loving Kindness Farms in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

By Alexis Keenan

Canadian researchers Olga and Igor Kovalchuk have been developing and testing novel cannabis strains for years, mostly to examine the strains’ efficacy to combat cancer and inflammation.

Now, they’ve turned their focus to COVID-19, after preclinical research showed their strains might make it more difficult for the virus to enter human cells.

As the pandemic began to unfold, and lockdown orders went into place, Olga Kovalchuk and her husband Igor wondered how their cannabis strains might interact with COVID-19. “Let's take a look whether or not any of our cannabis extracts affect any of the gene proteins that may be involved in COVID-19 disease,” Kovalchuk recalled asking.

The duo suspected their extracts might affect the ACE2 receptor, a gateway through which the virus enters and threatens human cells. “We looked through the literature and said ‘this looks very similar to SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome], so it probably enters in a similar way,’” Kovalchuk said.

A scientific paper later confirmed their suspicions, which sent the two researchers combing through a mountain of data they had collected on their 1,500 cannabis strains. 

They identified high CBD concentration extracts that showed to decrease the level of ACE2 gene expression, and ACE2 protein in artificial human cell models taken from the lining of the intestines, lungs, and mouth. Evidence of the decrease meant that the extracts could have been blocking the receptors through which COVID-19 enters.  Read more >>