Weill Cornell Medicine secures an $11.6 million grant from NIDA to explore the impact of cannabis on the brains of individuals living with HIV. The research aims to determine whether cannabis exacerbates or protects against the neurological effects of the virus.
The intersection of cannabis and HIV has long intrigued researchers, and Weill Cornell Medicine is set to delve deeper into this complex relationship. With a $11.6 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a team of scientists will embark on a five-year study to investigate the effects of cannabis and its derivatives on the brains of those living with HIV.
The principal investigator, Professor Lishomwa Ndhlovu from the Division of Infectious Diseases, recognizes that while HIV can lead to neurological changes, the interaction between cannabis and the virus remains unclear. This study aims to shed light on whether cannabis exacerbates the brain’s response to HIV or provides protective benefits.
Numerous studies have revealed that individuals with HIV frequently turn to cannabis for recreational purposes or to alleviate symptoms associated with the virus. Cannabis possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which researchers believe could potentially mitigate the chronic inflammation caused by HIV. This inflammation is believed to contribute to long-term health issues, including cognitive deficits, commonly experienced by individuals with HIV.
To investigate the intricate interplay between cannabis and HIV, the researchers will focus on various brain regions, such as the hippocampus, which plays a crucial role in learning and memory. Utilizing brain tissue samples obtained postmortem from human patients and nonhuman animal models, they will analyze gene activity and the underlying mechanisms within individual cells.
According to Assistant Professor Michael Corley from the Division of Infectious Diseases, the response of different brain cells to cannabis in the context of HIV remains unclear. The team plans to leverage new single-cell technologies, enabling them to map changes at a high resolution and examine the effects on specific cell types.
This groundbreaking project is part of NIDA’s SCORCH program, which seeks to explore how addictive substances may influence the effects of HIV on the brain at the cellular level. Weill Cornell Medicine’s cannabis research represents the second SCORCH project based at the institution.
As this study unfolds, researchers anticipate gaining a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between cannabis and HIV-related brain effects. Ultimately, this knowledge could pave the way for innovative approaches to managing and improving the overall well-being of individuals living with HIV.