Saturday, October 27, 2012

Marijuana-like compounds may hold the key to preserving life in late-stage AIDS patients.

The journal PLoS ONE has published research from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC that marijuana-like compounds have been shown to inhibit HIV disease progression, specifically in late-stage AIDS. Doctors and patients alike have long known the therapeutic benefit of medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS patients to treat chronic pain, nausea, and to increase appetite to fight wasting, but now it seems they have found the mechanism by which resting CD4 cells are prevented from being infected with the HIV virus as happens in late-stage AIDS. Active CD4 cells are targeted in the earlier stages of the disease. HIV infects those cells and uses them to multiply, destroying the immune cell in the process of making more copies of itself to infect and destroy a person's immune system. CD4 cells have THC and other marijuana-like compound receptors called CXCR4 on their exteriors. When CXCR4 coreceptors encounter the THC-like compounds it was shown those compounds both prevented HIV entry into the cells and also suppressed HIV viral replication within the cell. Scientists are planning a mouse model study that will study the effects of the cannabinoids in vivo or in living mice. Further research may yield more drugs, but it seems to lend more evidence of support to the medical marijuana movement. Does medical marijuana only alleviate symptoms of illness or does it do something more? Is it keeping people alive? If marijuana can ease symptoms and suppress infection in late-stage AIDS patients, that would be a two-fer. Free the leaf!