Will CBD and THC have a future role in fighting viruses and inflammation?

Could marijuana and CBD be helped by a genomic parasite to decrease inflammation and viruses?

Researchers at the CECAD Cluster of Excellence in Aging Research of the University of Cologne, the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Francis Crick Institute in London have made a significant discovery that offers insight into targeting viruses and inflammation alike through identifying a key protein called, ZBP1.

Published in late March in the journal, Nature, scientists found that ZBP1, a protein best known for defending against incoming viruses, is activated by sensing an unusual form of cellular genetic material (Z-nucleic acids), leading to cell death and inflammation.

Found in Z-nucleic acids, ZBP1 is a cellular genetic material; double-strained DNA and RNA molecules with an “unusual left-handed double helix structure.” Discovered more than four decades ago, scientists have been attempting to understand how the protein unlocks a feature that harms viruses in its path. Once ZBP1 is activated, it can “sense” the genetic make-up of viruses, identifying threats and activating a kill sequence not only when a virus is present, but when it meets its kryptonite: RIPK1, a protein stopping ZBP1.

ZBP1 not only seems to have a hand in helping the body fight viruses, but seems to offer positive effects on inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Experimenting on models of mice, researchers were able to showcase that the “ZBP1 protein binds to double-stranded RNA,” explained Manolis Pasparakis, a professor in the study.

“Just like during viral infection, sensing of Z-RNA produced by endogenous retroelements by ZBP1 could provide a potent trigger for cell death and inflammation, and cause disease. These are early days and we have a long way to go, but understanding the underlying mechanisms may one day lead to novel therapies for human diseases,” Pasparakis said.

Cannabis has been researched for its ability to enhance the body’s immune system and relax inflammation. / Photo: peterschreiber.media / iStock / Getty Images Plus peterschreiber.media / iStock / Getty Images Plus

With the anti-inflammation properties of CBD and marijuana, it may only be a matter of time before scientists start experimenting with THC’s effects on the body and its genomes. Cited as a “novel anti-inflammatory,” cannabis has been researched for its ability to enhance the body’s immune system and relax inflammation.

A 2009 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Future Medicinal Chemistry, stated, “The cannabinoid system has been shown both in vivo and in vitro to be involved in regulating the immune system through its immunomodulatory properties. Cannabinoids can either directly inhibit tumour growth or suppress inflammation and tumour angiogenesis.”

One thing is certain: With new medical research comes the ability to more deeply understand the human body’s genetic makeup, offering key insights into how cells react.

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