Just recently the Journal of Leukocyte Biology published an abstract entitled, ”Attenuation of HIV-1 replication in macrophages by cannabinoid receptor 2 agonists,” which references a series of experiments conducted by scientists at the Temple University School of Medicine Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that indicates infection by the HIV-1 virus (responsible for AIDS) can be slowed down by the introduction of an agonist that hinders the disease by way of activating CB2 receptors. Cannabinoids, one of the active ingredients of cannabis, is one such agonist.
CB2 receptors work by stimulating immune system of the human body to heal itself from, among other things, cellular decay, reducing tissue inflammation and managing pain. While THC only stimulates CB1 receptors in such a way as to create a psychoactive sensation (also known as, “being high”), CB2 receptors can capture the therapeutic chemical properties of THC and use them for the good of the human body. This stimulating can also apparently help fight AIDS.
One of the ways HIV-1 does it deadly work is by infiltrating macrophages, a common type of cell found within most human tissues. After infecting tissues samples with HIV-1, scientists noted tissues samples with increased CB2 function were able to partially fight off the virus. Although the team remarked in their abstract that this doesn’t exactly mean that smoking cannabis can cure AIDS, the presence of cannabinoids is clearly a factor in preventing HIV-1 infection and increasing CB2 receptor function to the point of bolstering the immune system against the disease.
Dr. Patricia E. Molina, a scientist at the Louisiana State University, recently published a study within the pages of the scientific journal Aids Research and Human Retroviruses that described how for 17 months her research team administered high doses of THC (another active ingredient in cannabis) to rhesus monkeys infected by SIV, a disease similar to the HIV-1 virus dangerous to humans.
Their findings clearly indicated that monkeys with THC in their system not only fared better than their non-THC peers, but in some instances were beating the infection. As the HIV-1 virus in their bodies destroyed cells, the CB2 receptors responded by increasing cell growth, preventing the virus from infiltrating the blood stream and doing further damage.
Dr. Molina had not expected this result when she had originally began the experiment. “When we started the study, we thought [THC] was going to increase viral load [the amount of the HIV virus that is present in the gut],” Dr. Molina said in an interview with Leaf Science. Instead, THC did the opposite of her expectations. “It adds to the picture and it builds a little bit more information around the potential mechanisms that might be playing a role in the modulation of the infection.”
Despite this evidence and more, a serious scientific study cannot be conducted within the United States because our federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule I drug. It is impossible to test an illegal drug on humans, so whether or not cannabis truly does fight cancer is still largely theoretical until the law changes and further studies can be done in an effort to fight a disease that still kills thousands of Americans across the country every year.