The phase 1 of Moderna Incorporation’s coronavirus vaccine trials have proven successful and have shown that the vaccine is safe and effective against the infection.
Coronavirus started spreading around 9 months ago, however, up till now, no vaccine has been approved by the FDA. Numerous researchers and scientists have been actively working for developing a possible treatment plan and vaccine for the infection.
While some studies focused on using natural products, including cannabis, for the treatment, others have been trying to come up with a perfect combination of chemical compounds to combat the infection. So far, the novel coronavirus has affected 13,691,665 people, with a total of 586,821 deaths.
Moderna Inc. was working on developing a vaccine for the coronavirus infection. The experimental drug has proven effective and safe for human use. It was able to successfully trigger an immune response and production of appropriate antibodies in 45 healthy subjects who volunteered for the early stage trials.
The study was published in New England Journal of Medicine and showed production of antibodies in all subjects. The volunteers who received two shots of the vaccine had a higher number of the antibodies as compared to the previously recovered coronavirus patients.
There were no major side effects. However, some people reported having mild to moderate symptoms of fatigue, muscle aches, chills, headache and pain in the injection area. These were majorly seen in the subjects who received a higher dose of the vaccine.
The volunteers, aged 18 to 55, were divided into 3 groups of 15 subjects each. They got two shots with a gap of 28 days. Group 1 was given 25 micrograms of vaccine, group 2 was given 100 micrograms and group 3, 250 micrograms.
Side effects were seen in 13 members of group 1, 14 of group 2 and all members of group 3. 3 out of the 45 had significantly severe symptoms including a high grade fever, nausea and headache. One of these three subjects was reported to have 103.28 Fahrenheit fever.
Moderna Inc. was the first company to start human trials for the coronavirus vaccine, which began on March 16. This was around 2 months after the DNA sequence of the novel coronavirus was made public.
According to the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, any vaccine that produces results similar to the original infection is a “winner”. Hence, the company is greatly please with the results.
Moderna has full support of the US government that has selected it as one of the first corporations to step into large scale human trials. The government also invested around 500 million dollars for the development of the vaccine.
Just after the news surfaced about the successful vaccine, the company’s shares improved by over 15 percent. If proven successful in the more extensive trials, the vaccine can be a big step for the company that has never produced a licensed product.
Moderna’s vaccine, labelled as mRNA 1273, makes use of RNA to trigger the production of antibodies in the human body. RNA is a single stranded nuclease sequence that is responsible for protein production. Once inserted into the body, the vaccine triggers the production of proteins similar to coronavirus. They are then detected as foreign organisms by the body, resulting in an immune response.
Phase 2 trials for the vaccine started in May and phase 3 trials are expected to begin in late July.
Connection of Marijuana usage with Autism stirs concerns
With the legalization of cannabis use globally, healthcare experts are sounding increased distress alarms. According to the latest researches conducted by related groups, the incidence of autism in children is on the rise due to increased marijuana consumption by either one or both parents of the unborn child.
Studies conducted by some of the prestigious institutions have backed these fears with their in-depth analysis of the matter.
Relationship between marijuana usage and autism in children
When Expecting Mothers Smoke Weed
Escalated marijuana usage by expectant mothers during their gestational period is supposedly causing a rise in the cases of autism.
Studies carried out in Canada between April 2007 and March 2012 have backed these claims with the thorough scientific analysis of researchers.
According to the outcomes of the research, marijuana exposure during gestation increases the risk of autism development in children by almost 50% .
Around 2.2 percent of the subjects faced greater intellectual difficulties like speech delays, smaller attention spans and social anxiety later on in their lives. These figures were in contrast to 1.4 percent of children with developmental delays born to mothers did not smoke weed during gestation.
Daniel Corsi, an epidemiologist and PhD holder in Health Research Methodology, reported the findings of these studies in Nature Medicine.
Another supporter of the main findings of these studies is Dr. Torri Metz, a clinical researcher and expert in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology and fetal development. She holds great interests in the impacts of marijuana intake on fetal development during pregnancy. She strictly advocates the idea that marijuana usage impacts fetal neurodevelopment negatively, with the true extents still under investigation.
Since the magnitude of marijuana usage on fetal brain development is largely unknown, doctors discourage it while pregnant or breastfeeding.
When Fathers smoke weed
Duke University Medical Center has conducted an interesting study on the subject. As per the research findings, autism in children also has some connections with marijuana intake by fathers.
According to the study, a particular gene undergoes genetic changes with increased marijuana usage. This gene is related directly related with autism and the changes can be passed on to the offspring.
These genetic changes are triggered in the sperm, once again establishing a negative relationship between neurological development and marijuana usage.
“This study is the first to demonstrate an association between a man’s cannabis use and changes of a gene in sperm that has been implicated in autism,” said senior author Susan Murphy, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine.
The entire team behind this research was skeptical about the idea that marijuana is benign in nature, and urged further research and studies on the subject.
With so much data that already discourages the use of alcohol by expecting mothers, there remains very less doubt pertaining to marijuana usage.
Why is marijuana getting more medical attention?
Despite of all of these research results, there are segments of stakeholders that see no harm in marijuana consumption. They argue that marijuana intake is a safer option for some to get relief from nausea, stress and anxiety which are a part and parcel of pregnancy and some other diseases as well.
Some healthcare providers actually encourage the use of cannabis to treat autism. According to them, it is an ‘effective option’ for dealing with conditions like seizures, anger fists and depression in such patients. They argue that cannabis actually improves the quality of life of autistic patients by huge percentages.
With increased legalization of marijuana and many related products, there are chances that consumption is going to see further increases. This means that the need for research on marijuana usage and its impacts on individual health is higher than ever before.
Study: Cannabis Terpene Treatment For COVID-19
A recent Israeli study has found a possible treatment for COVID-19 complications in cannabis. The chemical CBD (cannabidiol) has been studied in a combination with a cannabis terpene (NT-VRL). This CBD is one of the key ingredients in cannabis sativa. Meanwhile, the cannabis terpene NT-VRL (patent of Ebyna) is an aromatic chemical from the flowers of the plant. When administered in combination, there has been a noticeable positive effect on ‘cytokine storm’, a feared complication of COVID-19.
Cytokine storm is a dangerous reaction to COVID-19 by the body’s immune system
The term ‘cytokine storm’ refers to a chain reaction of immune cells, causing increasing levels of inflammation. Because the body is responding the the coronavirus infecting the patient, it secretes small proteins called ‘cytokines’. Usually, these have small but important roles in helping kill off the virus by creating inflammation and fever. However, when this reaction goes unchecked, it can be deadly if untreated. The patient would undergo very high levels of fever, fatigue, inflammation and in worst-cases, respiratory failure.
This is why the recent discovery that COVID-19 can lead to cytokine storm was so shocking. It meant that even young, healthy people with strong immune systems would be susceptible to potential deaths from this disease. Furthermore, the most widely-used drug of choice for treating this, dexamethasone, is undergoing global shortage.
The company, Ebyna, had patented the cannabis terpene, NT-VRL
The study was a collaboration between Ebyna, the terpene company, and Cannasoul, a cannabis research entity. Thus, Ebyna and Cannasoul’s joint venture led to the formation of an inhalant drug. This contained NT-VRL, to be administered with or without CBD. The aim of the study was to investigate the effects they had on treating cytokine storm from COVID-19.
Long just dismissed as simply useful in the flavor/smell of cannabis products, terpenes were shown to be very effective in this case. When combined with the CBD, which has also been shown to have positive health effects, it was remarkable. The combined therapy of both CBD and NT-VRL significantly improved symptoms of cytokine storm from COVID-19.
“This type of delivery [inhaled, rather than ingested] method is a game-changer enabling us to achieve therapeutic qualities from these unique phytochemicals like never before,” said Nadav Eya, the CEO of Ebyna. He was referring to the unexpected efficacy of the NT-VRL therapy in this COVID-19 complication.
Other studies confirm Ebyna-Cannasoul’s findings
Outside of Israel, several studies report similar findings. More and more researchers are turning to cannabis byproducts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Igor and Olga Kovalchuck, researchers from Canada, were both developing a new strain of cannabis. Their aim was to extract anti-cancer drugs from it. However, the new COVID-19 pandemic caused them to shift focus towards combating the coronavirus. Their strain is hoped to be able to produce a drug that could reduce the communicability of SARS-CoV2. It would do so by restricting the ACE-2 receptors in the body.
All in all, Ebyna and Cannasoul’s NT-VRL terpene may just be revolutionary. The existence of terpene as an anti-cytokine storm drug is still debatable, and more research is still required. However, their study and that of corroborators have shown that cannabis is even more useful a plant than we had ever suspected. For more news and updates on the state of the CBD-terpene therapy, stay tuned. In the meanwhile, check out other recent studies on CBD here.
Endocanna Health Aims To Increase Genetic Risk Awareness For COVID-19
This pandemic is practically unprecedented in terms of how mysterious its risk factors are. While the mode of transmission is known, the exact factors that make a person susceptible to severe complications aren’t. Experts all agree that COVID-19 may either pass the infected with no symptoms, cause mild respiratory effects or in worst-cases deaths.
However, what still remains unclear is who is vulnerable and why. That’s why Endocanna Health, a cannabinoid DNA-research company based in California, has stepped up. They are offering a free DNA test for genetic factors in their consumers. This test is meant to scan for known genetic markers that could lead to susceptibility. While the gesture is generous, it must be cautioned such a test is not meant to be a reliable tool to assess this.
DNA research works by looking for known markers
The aim of Endocanna Health’s test is to examine possible vulnerable genes. Such genes could make a person’s immune system weaker to infection, or allow them to develop worse symptoms.
However, if you’re wondering why you haven’t been prescribed this test before, there’s a reason. Most healthcare providers and experts don’t rely on such tests because they only indicate correlation. There is no way to prove the causation. What that means, simply, is that certain genes can make COVID-19 more severe, not always. Factors like age, diet, health conditions and mental health are important too, though.
Endocanna Health’s research is most notable for its work on the human endocannabinoid system. This system includes the way certain cannabinoid neurotransmitters work to regulate mood, sensation, memory, metabolism and immunity.
The system was discovered by scientists investigating the effects of THC in marijuana on the body. While we did just mention immunity back there, it must be kept in mind that this is only part of it (more on that later).
The company’s Chief Science Officer, Dr Chris Spooner, recently claimed that the work they were doing would be useful for understanding the immune system. He mentioned the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the immune cells, that affected the strength of immune response to COVID-19. While the role of cannabinoids on the cells is clear, the message behind the aims should be scrutinized.
Your genes are not the most important factor in beating COVID-19
If Endocanna Health’s aim is to combat COVID-19, then that’s commendable. But if they think that it will significantly contribute to flattening the curve, their hopes are a tad misplaced. Major health experts, from Dr Anthony Fauci to the WHO, all assert that the number one rule to follow is to stay healthy and socially distance. If you’re worried about COVID-19, or another similar disease, then eat healthy, sleep well and stay home. DNA tests can be helpful, truly, in the case of congenital disease (think cystic fibrosis or hemophilia). But to cause misinformation about them is deliberately harmful. Let’s look at the real unsung heroes in the body’s immune system.
To fight infection, circulating white blood cells (called leucocytes) detect and attack germs. They also signal the release of chemicals like prostaglandins to create inflammation and fever, which can be beneficial.
Other cells, like mast cells, help signal the response to rest of the system. Then, from the antigens of the germs, ‘B-Cells’ create antibodies. Antibodies are basically drugs to kill off any other germs left, from bacteria to coronaviruses. This whole process is wonderfully self-regulated. And knowing your genes will just make you more paranoid than actually help, it seems.
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