9/27/2004

What can't pot do?

A study carried out by scientists of University of South Florida College of Medicine has revealed that the compound in marijuana that produces a high, delta-9 tetrahydrocannbinol or THC, may effectively block the spread of several forms of cancer causing herpes viruses.

The findings of the study could lead to the creation of antiviral drugs based on non-psychoactive derivatives of THC.

Once a person is infected with viruses like Kaposi's Sarcoma Associated Herpes and Epstein-Barr, they can remain dormant for long periods within white blood cells before they burst out and begin replicating. This reactivation of the virus boosts the number of cells infected thereby increasing the chances that the cells will become cancerous.

The USF team, led by virologist Peter Medveczky, discovered that that this sudden reactivation was prevented if infected cells were grown in the presence of THC. While cells infected with a mouse gamma herpes virus normally died when the virus was reactivated, these same cells survived when cultured in the laboratory along with the cannabinoid compound.

The researchers also showed that THC acts specifically on gamma herpes viruses. The chemical had no effect on another related virus, herpes simplex-1, which causes cold sores and genital herpes.

Medveczky, however, emphasized that further studies are needed to guarantee the effectiveness of cannabis.

"We have not evaluated the effect of THC in an animal model yet so we do not recommend people start using pot to prevent or treat cancers," he said.

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