A new study suggests that a chemical found in marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can help people living with HIV by strengthening their mental stamina.
A new study says that marijuana may help in strengthening the mental stamina of HIV patients. As per the research carried out by Michigan State University scientists, tetrahydrocannabinol has been found to strengthen mental stamina. Marijuana – also called weed, herb, or green – is considered to be a medicinal drug if consumed for health purposes.
“It’s believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV. This IS partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain.” said Norbert Kaminski, lead author of the study.
Mike Rizzo (a graduate student of toxicology) found out the compounds present in marijuana can act as anti-inflammatory agents. They can help reduce the number of monocytes, which are inflammatory white blood cells (WBC). In addition, decreasing the proteins that these WBCs release in the body.
Kaminski, director of MSU’s Institute for Integrative Toxicology, has studied the effects of marijuana on the immune system since 1990. His lab was the first to identify the proteins that can bind marijuana compounds on the surface of immune cells. Up until then, it was unclear how these compounds, also known as cannabinoids, affected the immune system.
“This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process. This could potentially help patients maintain their cognitive function longer,” said Mike Rizzo, co-author of the study and a graduate student in toxicology.
How the Study Worked
For the study, the two researchers took blood samples from 40 HIV patients who reported whether or not they used marijuana. Secondly, they isolated the white blood cells from each donor. Lastly, they studied the inflammatory cell levels and the effect marijuana had on the cells.
“The patients who didn’t smoke marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use,” Kaminski said. “In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV.”
The standard form of HIV treatment is the antiretroviral therapy. This includes multiple kinds of drugs that work towards warding off the virus. But these cells have a better chance of staying intact with help of marijuana therapy as compared to antiretroviral therapy.
“We’ll continue investigating these cells and how they interact and cause inflammation specifically in the brain,” Rizzo said. “What we learn from this could also have implications for other brain-related diseases. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have the same inflammatory cells.”
“It might not be people smoking marijuana,” Kaminski said. “It might be people taking a pill that has some of the key compounds.”
Earlier, a 2016 paper in the journal Clinical Psychology Review suggested that marijuana may have benefits for people with depression, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.