According to a groundbreaking study, cannabis might prevent HIV from turning into AIDS. Published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS), the study indicated that THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, can suppress the function of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), which play an essential role in hosting the antiviral response.
The specifics of how THC combats the progression of AIDS is a little tricky, and may sound like scientific jargon:
Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) play a crucial role in host antiviral immune response through secretion of type I interferon. Interferon alpha (IFNα), a type I IFN, is critical for mounting the initial response to viral pathogens. A consequence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV) infection is a decrease in both pDC number and function, but prolonged pDC activity has been linked with progression from HIV infection to the development of AIDS. Patients with HIV in the United States routinely use cannabinoid-based therapies to combat the side effects of HIV infection and antiretroviral therapy. However, cannabinoids, including Δ-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are well-characterized immunosuppressants. Here, we report that THC suppressed secretion of IFNα by pDC from both healthy and HIV+ donors through a mechanism involving impaired phosphorylation of interferon regulatory factor 7. These results suggest that THC can suppress pDC function during the early host antiviral response by dampening pDC activation.
In summary, that means that pDCs, or immune cells that circulate the blood, are particularly important when it comes to immune responses by emitting interferon alpha, a signaling protein that responds to pathogens. When someone has HIV, their pDCs don’t function as well, but still continue to function. That continued functionality, even if compromised by the virus, can lead to AIDS. Because cannabis is an immunosuppressant, it can curb activity in the immune system, which means that it curbs the immune system’s continual, yet compromised functionality that leads to AIDS.
In general that means HIV patients who take cannabis solutions can potentially circumvent full blown AIDS. Hence, medical marijuana is not only useful in mitigating the symptoms of HIV and side effects of various medications, but also in preventing the progression of the disease altogether.
More than a million Americans today have HIV, yet one out of seven don’t even know it. While that may still seem like a lot, the rate of HIV infection has declined 18 percent between 2008 and 2014. And in recent years, especially with the proliferation of medical marijuana around the country, patients in more than half the nation have been able to benefit from cannabinoid treatment.