Despite drug therapy, HIV is notorious for hiding within certain types of cells, where it reproduces at a slower rate and eventually gives rise to chronic inflammation.
A study done by researchers at Temple University School of Medicine's Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine(TUSM) and Center for Substance Abuse Research discovered that the synthetic anti-inflammatory substances distantly related to the active ingredient of marijuana may be able to weaken the most common strain of HIV while inside one of its major hideouts, the immune cells known as macrophages.
Macrophages are one of many types of white blood cell in humans. They are the first cells that are infected when HIV enters the body.
According to Wired, the virus can live inside macrophages for days, weeks or months. It travels around the body, infecting other cells and acting as an extremely effective pollinator of HIV.
Stopping the HIV virus from infecting macrophages is one method researchers are investigating. A solution to this problem would dramatically decrease the speed at which the infection progresses and would give time for other antiretrovirals to help keep it at bay, or even remove it.
Various antiretroviral drug cocktails have allowed HIV patients to live longer however this comes at a price, a longer life for patients mean extended exposure to low levels of HIV replication and associated inflammation.
According to News Medical, in the central nervous system (CNS) this inflammatory process is thought to be the underlying cause of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder.
In order to gain a better understanding of the connection between inflammation and neurocognitive conditions linked to long-term exposure to HIV, Servio H. Ramirez, PhD, Assistant Professor of TUSM and colleagues looked specifically at the CB2 receptor.
The CB2 receptor is a protein located on the surface of macrophages. CB2 is a binding site for substances called cannabinoids which are the primary active compounds of marijuana and it may play a role in blocking inflammation in the CNS.
Unlike the CB1 receptor, which is found primarily on neurons in the brain, CB2 does not mediate the psychoactive effects for which cannabis is popularly known for.
According to Infection Control Today, "The next step for the research team is to perform further screening studies using other novel CB2 agonists in parallel with studies that can help uncover the molecular events within the cell that regulate the effect of CB2 on HIV."
The study was been published in The Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
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