How Pot Could Stop HIV

One medical breakthrough shows the active substance in marijuana could block HIV from entering the brain.

BY Katie Wurtzel

May 29 2013 4:43 AM ET

According to Philadelphia HIV researcher Dr. Servio Ramirez, a substance in marijuana could prevent the HIV from entering the brain. Ramirez. an assistant professor of pathology at Temple University School of Medicine, says his newest research shows that THC, the main active substance in marijuana, could prevent or at least suppress infected cells from entering the brain. In his recently published article for the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, Ramirez's team reported that while previous studies had shown THC can lessen inflammatory responses, their research expanded on this to prove that pot could be used as a therapy for the immune system.

THC can block inflammation and slow down HIV's ability to reproduce itself when it attaches to a specific protein.

"The idea is to prevent a lot of these cells from moving into the brain during the course of the infection," Ramirez told CBS Philly, "and if you are able to suppress or somehow control hive replication in this particular immune cell, the whole hope is that less of these cells would be entering the brain through the course of infection."

Currently, most drugs used to control HIV cannot get to the brain or aren't effective once there. Once HIV hits the brain it is mostly likely to impact memory, verbal fluency, and attention through impairment in the hippocampus and basnal ganglia. The THC in the cannibis plant has the potential to limit the infection in cells in these areas of the brain.

The next step is more research on implementing THC as a treatment modality.

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