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Could Cannabis Heighten A Protein's Ability To Fight Viruses And Inflammation?

With the anti-inflammation properties of CBD and marijuana, it's only a matter of time before scientists start experimenting with THC's effects on the body and its genomes.

This story originally appeared on The Fresh Toast

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

Sefa Kart/Getty Images via The Fresh Toast

Researchers at the CECAD Cluster of Excellence in Aging Research of the University of Cologne, 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 the journal Nature, the 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.

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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 over 4 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.

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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.”

Microdosing: The Secret To A New Cannabis ExperiencePhoto by pcess609/Getty Images via The Fresh Toast

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With the anti-inflammation properties of CBD and marijuana, it’s only 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 decades for its ability to heighten the body’s immune system and relax inflammation. A 2009 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Future Medicinal Chemistry, stated that, “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 tumor growth or suppress inflammation and tumor angiogenesis.”

One thing is certain: With new medical research comes the ability to deeper understand the human body’s genetic makeup, offering key insights to how cells react. It’s a matter of if, not when scientists unlock the human body’s many secret abilities.