Oregon State University has been getting worldwide attention after researchers published a study identifying compounds in hemp as a treatment for Covid-19. The researchers discovered last January that specific compounds in hemp could prevent the virus from entering human cells. Now, researchers are holding a free public event about their findings, according to KTVZ.
People can attend the event in person or tune in online. It will feature a presentation by Richard van Breemen, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Oregon State and one of the study’s authors. The presentation is titled “Natural products and hemp: Under-appreciated sources for COVID-19 therapeutic agents.”
Earlier this year, van Breemen and a team of researchers found that a pair of cannabinoid acids — specifically CBDA and CBGA — bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the infection process.
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen said to Oregon State University Newsroom. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.”
Those two variants are also known as the alpha and beta variants, respectively.
Characterized by crown-like points on its outer surface, SARS-CoV-2 features RNA strands that encrypt its four main structural proteins – spike, envelope, membrane and nucleocapsid – as well as 16 nonstructural proteins and several “accessory” proteins, van Breemen said.
“Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral intervention, and the connection of the spike protein’s receptor binding domain to the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle,” he said. “That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can’t bind to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Natural Products and set records for downloads and online views. The researchers’ findings were covered by more than 400 news agencies worldwide, which makes sense considering how desperate the world is for an answer to the Covid problem.
While natural products account for about half of all drugs currently in use, van Breemen said natural drug discovery research is not a priority of major pharmaceutical companies and federal funding agencies.
Hemp is a rich source of unique natural products, many of which have pharmacological activity, van Breemen said. But because hemp was prohibited in the US from 1936 until 2018 few of these compounds have been studied. Van Breemen said many restrictions remain in effect.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge in natural product research to discover new antiviral agents. Several laboratories worldwide, including van Breemen’s, reported that certain cannabinoids from hemp exhibit anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity.
Now, people can hear the study’s lead author discuss this data at length and ask him questions directly about how cannabis can potentially keep their body virus-free.