There’s been a lot of talk this week about a new study on marijuana and COVID-19, the miraculous gist of the headlines being that cannabis prevents COVID. More specifically, the study, published in journal of natural products On January 10, it was found that two common cannabis compounds can block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering isolated human cells in a laboratory study.
Any potential breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19 is always exciting news – the fact that the widely loved cannabis plant could be a major player here doubles it down. But, as is the case with many simplistic narratives in media coverage about science news, the whole story may not be accurately captured by a single headline or tweet.
Here’s what you need to know about the study, including what the researchers found, important caveats and limitations, and what we have yet to learn.
Who did the study?
The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) and the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Oregon Health & Science University. The lead researcher was Richard van Breemen, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute and professor of medicinal chemistry at OSU, whose laboratory studies the discovery, development, medicinal use, and safety of natural products (such as those for cancer). Antioxidant) prevention). None of the authors declared a competing financial interest.
The researchers presented their paper journal of natural products, a peer-reviewed research journal co-published by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP) in October 2021, and was published in its most recent issue.
What did the study find?
Researchers in van Breemen’s lab were studying a variety of plants — such as red clover, licorice, and hemp — in search of natural compounds that could potentially block the novel coronavirus from entering cells, van Breemann said. explained in an interview with Vice.
Looking at cannabis, which contains a wide variety of botanical compounds, the researchers first examined molecules that can bind on the spike protein, which is the part of the virus that actually helps it penetrate and infect human cells. As explained (and is one of the main goals of COVID-19 vaccines). To do this, they incubated a fragment of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in a mixture of cannabis extracts and observed which compounds within the cannabis extract gleaned on the spike protein. They found that three different acids had a strong affinity for binding to the spike protein: cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A), cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A), and tetrahydrocannabinoleic acid (THC-A). Other cannabinoids showed only weak or no binding ability.
The next phase of the experiment was testing whether the acids that showed the ability to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein could actually inhibit the virus’s ability to penetrate the surface of human cells – and indeed, the virus itself. can neutralize. The researchers went ahead with two of the three promising compounds, CBD-A (the precursor to the well-known compound CBD) and CBG-A. (They could not obtain enough of the third compound, THC-A, to conduct further experiments, because this acid is a precursor to the psychoactive compound THC, which is a controlled substance, the authors explain in the paper.)