Cannabis-like drug may slow the progression of AIDS
As the debate on whether medical marijuana should be legalized continues, researchers are discovering more benefits of this apparently therapeutic herb. Recently, a team of scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that a cannabis-like drug may help slow the progression of AIDS in late-stage patients.
Authors of the study explained that the virus is able to strengthen itself once it becomes advanced by infecting "resting" immune cells, both hindering their ability to fight off disease and using the cells as a vehicle to spread.
The Mount Sinai researchers discovered that marijuana is able to stop this action because activating a cannabinoid receptor stops the virus from infecting resting immune cells.
One hurdle the scientists are working to overcome is how to trigger only receptor CB2, as this is the receptor that hinders AIDS progression, while activating CB1 has no therapeutic effect and only results in the altered state of mind typically associated with marijuana use.
"Developing a drug that triggers only CB2 as an adjunctive treatment to standard antiviral medication may help alleviate the symptoms of late-stage AIDS and prevent the virus from spreading," said study author Cristina Costantino, Ph.D.
The researchers explained that the treatment may also be beneficial to people with late-stage AIDS, because it's not until this point that the virus attempts to infect resting immune cells. The scientists reported that the drug may help extend the lives of people living with this notoriously hard-to-treat virus.
Next, the study authors hope to test the therapy in a mouse model.
Earlier research performed by the team demonstrated how HIV is able to hijack immune T cells in order to thrive in the body. It was with this knowledge that the researchers were able to develop potential treatments for the virus.
While scientists are getting closer each day to finding effective treatments for HIV/AIDS, prevention is still the best medicine when it comes to these viruses.
Sexually active individuals in non-monogamous relationships should become educated on how to use a condom properly and how to talk about safer sex practices with their partner. Additionally, it's recommended that people receive a test for sexually transmitted diseases each time they have a new sexual partner.