Synthetic derivatives of THC may weaken HIV-1 infection to enhance antiviral therapies

A new use for compounds related in composition to the active ingredient in marijuana may be on the horizon: a new research report published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that compounds that stimulate the cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptor in white blood cells, specifically macrophages, appear to weaken HIV-1 infection. The CB2 receptor is the molecular link through which the pharmaceutical properties of cannabis are manifested. Diminishing HIV-1 infection in this manner might make current anti-viral therapies more effective and provide some protection against certain HIV-1 complications.

"The synthetic compounds we used in our study may show promise in helping the body fight HIV-1 infection,'" said Yuri Persidsky, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. "As compounds like these are improved further and made widely available, we will continue to explore their potential to fight other that are notoriously difficult to treat."

To make this discovery, scientists used a cell culture model to infect human macrophages with HIV-1 and added similar to the active ingredient in marijuana to activate the CB2 receptor. At different times during the infection, samples from the culture were taken to see if the replication of the was decreased. The researchers observed diminished HIV growth and a possible protective effect from some HIV-1 complications.

"HIV/AIDS has posed one of the most significant health challenges in modern medicine," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. "Recent high profile vaccine failures mean that all options need to be on the table to prevent or treat this devastating infection. Research on the role of cannabinoid type 2 receptors and viral infection may one day allow targeting these receptors to be part of combination therapies that use exploit multiple weaknesses of the virus simultaneously."

More information: Servio H. Ramirez, Nancy L. Reichenbach, Shongshan Fan, Slava Rom, Steven F. Merkel, Xu Wang, Wen-zhe Ho, and Yuri Persidsky. Attenuation of HIV-1 replication in macrophages by cannabinoid receptor 2 agonists. J. Leukoc. Biol. May 2013 93:801-810; doi:10.1189/jlb.1012523

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How HIV vaccine might have increased odds of infection

Nov 03, 2008

In September 2007, a phase II HIV-1 vaccine trial was abruptly halted when researchers found that the vaccine may have promoted, rather than prevented, HIV infection. A new study by a team of researchers at the Montpellier ...

Recommended for you

Model explains why HIV prevention dosing differs by sex

2 hours ago

A mathematical model developed by NIH grantees predicts that women must take the antiretroviral medication Truvada daily to prevent HIV infection via vaginal sex, whereas just two doses per week can protect men from HIV infection ...

Tourism as a driver of illicit drug use, HIV risk in the DR

Oct 29, 2014

The Caribbean has the second highest global human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence in the world outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, with HIV/AIDS as leading cause of death among people aged 20–59 years within the region. ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.