Inflammation is the root of many of the cognitive-related symptoms people with HIV face. And the reason they rely on cannabis or medical marijuana to manage pain, nausea and more.
These products contain THC, a substance that produces the psychoactive effects that cause a “high” and other side effects, like addiction. Nair, who along with his team have been conducting NIH-funded studies on how drug abuse impacts HIV infections, points out this can exacerbate symptoms.
There’s not been much research into how compounds like THC and CBD — both derived from the same plant — impact the brain at the molecular level. Yndart, who works in Nair’s lab, decided to find out.
She tested different concentrations of THC and CBD on hundreds of HIV-infected microglia cells. Then, cell by cell, she searched for specific markers, or clues, that exposed whether the cells were activated.
CBD-treated cells reduced the numbers of inflammatory molecules and kept the infected cells from activating.
Nair and Yndart emphasize CBD is a promising candidate for new ways to treat neurocognitive disorders and other inflammatory disorders caused by HIV, but more research will be needed, including clinical trials that investigate different CBD formulations.