Date of Award
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Despite the availability and success of antiretroviral therapeutics, ~30% of patients living with HIV experience neuropathic pain that is often intractable. The mechanisms are not known, but there is evidence to support a role for the HIV virotoxins, Tat and/or gp120, which can damage or degenerate neurons and peripheral nerves. One mechanism by which Tat and gp120 promote nerve damage involves the stimulation of proinflammatory cytokine production from immune cells which can damage or kill bystander cells. Notably, compounds found in Cannabis exert anti-inflammatory effects and many studies report HIV patients to consume more marijuana than seronegative individuals. When people living with HIV were asked about their pain management, many suggested that marijuana improved their symptoms. As such, we hypothesized that a component of cannabis, -9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), exerts anti-inflammatory effects that can offset the proinflammatory profile of HIV gp120. THC was screened in human microglia for its capacity to reduce gp120-mediated inflammation. While THC may exert acute anti-inflammatory effects, long-term marijuana use is associated with cognitive perturbation and reduced immune function. THC contributes to the psychotropic activity of cannabis. Thus, the benefits must be weighed against the adverse effects. Future work will assess cannabis constituents that may exert anti-inflammation without psychotropic activity.
Horne, Kaia, "Efficacy of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for HIV-related Neuropathic Pain" (2022). Honors Theses. 2626.
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