Marijuana might be helpful for HIV patients in keeping mental stamina longer

ANI | Updated: Dec 13, 2017 06:20 IST

Washington DC [USA], Dec 13 (ANI): Marijuana is considered to be a medicinal drug and if consumed for health purposes, it can be useful for a person.

But, now a study has found that marijuana might really help HIV patients keep mental stamina longer.

A group of researchers have found that a chemical found in marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has been found to potentially slow the process in which mental decline can occur in up to 50 per cent of HIV patients.

While talking about the study Norbert Kaminski, lead author of the study, said, "It is believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain. This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease."

Kaminski and his co-author, Mike Rizzo, a graduate student in toxicology, discovered that the compounds in marijuana were able to act as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the number of inflammatory white blood cells, called monocytes, and decreasing the proteins they release in the body.

Rizzo noted, "This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer."

The two researchers took blood samples from 40 HIV patients who reported whether or not they used marijuana.

Then, they isolated the white blood cells from each donor and studied inflammatory cell levels and the effect marijuana had on the cells.

"The patients who didn't smoke marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use. In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV," explained Kaminski.

With antiretroviral therapy -- a standard form of treatment that includes a cocktail of drugs to ward off the virus -- these cells have a better chance of staying intact.

Yet, even with this therapy, certain white blood cells can still be overly stimulated and eventually become inflammatory.

Rizzo explained, "We'll continue investigating these cells and how they interact and cause inflammation specifically in the brain. What we learn from this could also have implications to other brain-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's since the same inflammatory cells have been found to be involved."

They believe that knowing more about this interaction could ultimately lead to new therapeutic agents that could help HIV patients specifically maintain their mental function.

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, infects and can destroy or change the functions of immune cells that defend the body.

HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. In 2016, an estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV (including 1.8 million children).

Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses. In 2016, 1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

India remains the country with the third largest population of people with HIV after South Africa and Nigeria.

India had 2.1 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016, with new infections falling to 80,000 in 2016 from 1,50,000 in 2005.

The study was published in journal, AIDS. (ANI)

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