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Study Finds Cannabis Compounds Prevent Infection By Covid-19 Virus

Researchers have found that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in hemp varietals of cannabis, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, also known as CBDA, can bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. By binding to the spike protein, the compounds can prevent the virus from entering cells and causing infection, potentially offering new avenues to prevent and treat the disease.

Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center in the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, in collaboration with scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University.

By binding to the spike protein, the compounds can prevent the virus from entering cells and causing infection, potentially offering new avenues to prevent and treat the disease. Compounds in cannabis can prevent infection by the virus that causes Covid-19, according to research. “Orally bioavailable and with a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids, isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote in an abstract of the study.

The study was led by Richard van Breemen

01/20/22 Richard van Breemen – Newly published research shows that compounds in hemp may prevent coronavirus from entering human cells. Lead author Richard van Breemen, PhD, a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University, and a Principal Investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute.

 

  Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center in the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, in collaboration with scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University. Van Breeman said that the cannabinoids studied are common and readily available. “These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen said, as quoted by local media. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.” Van Breemen added that CBDA and CBGA blocked the action of emerging variants of the virus that causes Covid-19, saying that “our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.”

Corona viruses close up

CBGA and CBDA prevented infection from the virus that causes Covid-19 by binding to its spike protein is the same part of the virus target by Covid-19 vaccines and antibody therapies. In addition to the spike protein, SARS-CoV-2 has three more structural proteins as well as 16 nonstructural proteins and several compounds van Breemen characterized as “accessory” proteins, all of which are potential targets for drugs developed to prevent Covid-19. “Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral intervention, and the connection of the spike protein’s receptor binding domain to the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle,” van Breeman said. “That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can’t bind to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs.” Although further research is needed, van Breemen noted that study shows the cannabinoids could be developed into drugs to prevent or treat Covid-19. “These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans,” van Breemen noted.

“They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers. However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.” Van Breeman also noted that the research showed the cannabinoids were effective against new variants of the virus, which he said are “one of the primary concerns” in the pandemic for health officials and clinicians. “These variants are well known for evading antibodies against early lineage SARS-CoV-2, which is obviously concerning given that current vaccination strategies rely on the early lineage spike protein as an antigen,” said van Breemen.

“Our data show CBDA and CBGA are effective against the two variants we looked at, and we hope that trend will extend to other existing and future variants.” The researcher added that “resistant variants could still arise amid widespread use of cannabinoids but that the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should make for a much more challenging environment for SARS-CoV-2.” For More on the Global Hemp Innovation Center, OSU click on the next message. With the launch of the Global Hemp Innovation Center, OSU restores its original position as the nation’s premier hemp research institution.

OSU was the site of the country’s only hemp research center from the 1880s to the 1930s. We are the largest comprehensive hemp research center in the nation with 40 faculty across 19 disciplines conducting research in 10 locations across the state and four locations around the world in Asia and Europe. As the only hemp seed certifier in the state, and one of only four in the country, OSU is able to provide growers access to a source of certified seed for planting in the state.

Van Breemen said resistant variants could still arise amid widespread use of cannabinoids but that the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should make for a much more challenging environment for SARS-CoV-2. “Our earlier research reported on the discovery of another compound, one from licorice, that binds to the spike protein too,” he said. “However, we did not test that compound, licochalcone A, for activity against the live virus yet. We need new funding for that.” Timothy Bates, Jules Weinstein, Hans Leier, Scotland Farley and Fikadu Tafesse of OHSU also contributed to the cannabinoid study.
About the OSU College of Pharmacy: The College of Pharmacy prepares students of today to be the pharmacy practitioners and pharmaceutical sciences researchers of tomorrow by contributing to improved health, advancing patient care and the discovery and understanding of medicines.
In a study published just last week in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers from Oregon looked to hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) as a botanical source for potential ligands of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and its variants – and their results are taking the medical cannabis field by storm. Magnetic microbead affinity selection screening (MagMASS) – an affinity selection-mass spectrometry (AS-MS) approach – accompanied by ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS) analyses were used to identify and characterize ligand-receptor (i.e., viral spike protein-cannabinoid) interactions. Confirmation with supplemental cannabinoid standard assays revealed that cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) are indeed ligands with high respective binding affinities for the spike protein – especially relative to those of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol, (Δ8-THC) cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD), which exhibited weak if any, binding. The authors suggest that CBGA’s strong binding to the spike protein while in the presence of other cannabinoids is likely because CBGA is binding the protein allosterically, thus evading competition with orthosteric cannabinoid ligands for binding. Due to the ‘controlled substance’ status of THCA, further experiments could not be pursued on this cannabinoid. CBGA and CBDA, on the other hand, were subjected to further assessment of their respective binding affinities and antiviral activities. Virus neutralization assays demonstrated that CBGA and CBDA could prevent infection by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in human epithelial cells. More importantly, these two cannabinoids inhibited cellular entry of live SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Furthermore, CBGA and CBDA were each equally as effective against the alpha variant, B.1.1.7, and the beta variant, B.1.351.
 
   

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