Top Cannabis Science Headlines of 2022: The Story So Far
It’s been a busy start to the year for cannabis science, with new research, policies and business announcements hitting the headlines
What does 2022 look like for you?
Though I’m a relatively new face at The Cannabis Scientist, the industry seems to have come a long way in a short time. I’m still reeling from Malta becoming the first country in Europe to legalize recreational cannabis… It’s also clear that general acceptance of the drug is on the rise (especially if some of my own family conversations over the holidays are anything to go by). I was surprised to see the first celebrity-endorsed CBD commercial on UK TV – or perhaps the first I’ve paid any attention to. Will Claudia Winkleman’s battle cry of “CBD for the people!” signal even more acceptance?
In the US, it appears those in the industry are also hopeful for big change in 2022. I found this piece from Merida Capital Holdings’ Colin Kelley pretty insightful, as he lists a number of key trends to look out for in the next 12 months – from the legislation changes we can expect to see across states, to the trend towards more genetic research into stable cannabis characteristics. (If you want a more thorough breakdown of those states expected to legalize marijuana this year, check out this piece from MJBiz).
Hemp for hepatocytes
A research group already well-versed in studying the potential therapeutic effects of hemp seed hydrolysates has recently published new evidence for their potential anti-inflammatory role in treating liver diseases. The team obtained two peptides – H2 and H3 – via hydrolysis of hemp seed protein before assessing their ability to reduce inflammation in HepG2 cells. The results demonstrated the positive effect of these peptides on both the pro-inflammatory immune response and the nitric oxide pathway. The researchers believe H2 and H3 show promise as a potential treatment for preventing liver diseases such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
Cannabinoids and COVID-19
A research team, led by Richard van Breemen, has uncovered the role of cannabinoid acids in blocking cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2. Their approach, based on affinity selection-mass spectrometry, identified three cannabinoids - CBD-A, CBG-A and THC-A - as being potential allosteric inhibitors of the viral spike protein. To test whether CBDA and CBGA prevented infection, the live virus was incubated with 25 μg/mL of either substance and then used to infect Vero cells. After 24 hours, they found an absence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in the cells. Importantly, they found that CBDA and CBGA blocked both infection of the original live virus, as well as variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 strains. The authors also suggest that the combination of vaccines and cannabinoid treatments could create a more challenging environment for the virus, reducing the likelihood it will evade the immune system.
The variety of cannabis products available on the market is extensive, to say the least. This creates an issue for scientists studying the effects of the drug, as most clinical trials rely on products that are not representative of those available at dispensaries. And that’s why researchers from the University of Michigan sought to better characterize cannabis use routines in chronic pain patients. Using a mixed methods analysis of 1087 survey responses from adults using cannabis for symptom management of self-reported chronic pain, the team found that, though all participants reported decreased pain, those using non-inhalation alongside inhalation administration routes reported larger improvements in health and more medication substitutions. The data suggest that subgrouping patients into routes of administration could be useful for future medical cannabis studies.
What else is going on?
Research + Medicine
Simple, portable imaging method enables accurate detection of THC impairment; potential new avenue for evidence-based DUI tests. Link
National Institute on Drug Abuse awards $1.37 million grant to University of Mississippi researchers to study therapeutic effects of cannabis in reducing HIV-related pain. Link
Review summarises potential role of endocannabinoid system components in reducing effects of inflammatory bowel disease. Link
Novel Cannabis sativa L. extract shows promising immunomodulatory effects in T Lymphocytes. Link
Study shows CBD is PPARγ agonist, suggesting consumption could cause increased white adipose tissue accumulation. Link
Cognitive impairment from cannabis could persist after acute intake, based on meta-analytical data. Link
Testing + Processing
Analytical testing shows up to 50 percent of low-THC samples in Switzerland are adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids. Link
Study finds low levels of aflatoxin and ochratoxin contamination in 142 samples of illegal cannabis; suggests little or no risk to human health with moderate consumption. Link
Business + Regulation
London Mayor Sadiq Khan plans pilot scheme that will effectively “decriminalize” cannabis in UK capital. Link
Several cannabis legalization referendums look set to win in November ballots, including Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, and Arkansas. Link
Tilray ends partnership with Budweiser brewer, AB InBev. Link
Poll suggests Americans remain skeptical of Biden’s cannabis decriminalization promises, with 54 percent feeling that little to no progress has been made so far. Link
Despite some concerns over penalization, banking activity is increasing considerably in US states legalizing cannabis relative to non-legalizing states. Link
DEA grants Royal Emerald Pharmaceuticals four federal licenses to grow, research, develop, and manufacture alternative drugs derived from cannabis. Link
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By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.