Researchers in Canada carried out a study to find whether Cannabis sativa extracts may help in reducing the levels of the host cell receptor that the SARS-CoV-2 virus clings on to gain entry and spread.
For the study, researchers from the University of Lethbridge and Pathway Rx Inc., Lethbridge developed hundreds of new C. Sativa cultivars and tested 23 extracts in artificial 3D human models of the oral, airway, and intestinal tissues.
The study, published in the journal Aging, noted that 13 of the extracts downregulated expression of the SARS-CoV-2 host cell receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
“The observed down-regulation of ACE2 gene expression by several tested extracts of new C. Sativa cultivars is a novel and crucial finding,” said the researchers.
“While our most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, our study is important for future analyses of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19,” wrote Olga Kovalchuk and colleagues.
“The down-regulation of ACE2 levels in gateway tissues may thus be a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility,” said Kovalchuk and colleagues.
According to a report published in the journal News Medical and Life Sciences C. Sativa, particularly cultivars rich in cannabidiol (CBD), seems to alter gene expression and possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
The researchers identified six extracts that significantly downregulated the expression of ACE2 and two extracts that slightly upregulated its expression.
In a model of unstimulated oral tissue, two extracts downregulated ACE2 expression, while three other extracts upregulated its expression.
Next, the team examined a model of oral tissue that had been stimulated by treatment with the inflammatory cytokines’ tumor necrosis and interferon.
The scientists found that all C. Sativa extracts but one downregulated the expression of this altered ACE2 mRNA level.
Furthermore, in a model of inflammation-stimulated 3D intestinal tissues, two extracts significantly downregulated ACE2 mRNA levels.
“Using artificial 3D human models of the oral, airway, and intestinal tissues, we identified 13 high-CBD C. Sativa extracts that decrease ACE2 protein levels,” writes the team.
“If these results are further confirmed, these high-CBD cannabis extracts can be used to develop prevention strategies directed at lowering ACE2 levels in high-risk gateway tissues,” they write.
“The extracts of our most successful novel high-CBD C. Sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy,” concluded the team.