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This Federally-Funded Study Will Test How Cannabis Affects the Brains of HIV Patients

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: May 31, 2023   
Three cannabis cigarettes.

Image credit: iStock

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A group of researchers at Cornell University, New York, have been awarded a $11.6 million grant to study how cannabis affects the brains of HIV patients.

The grant was given by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a US federal institution.

With their funding now secured, the team at Cornell will begin working with brain tissue samples collected from human patients after death and from nonhuman animal models; they intend to investigate how cannabis affects gene activity within the hippocampus.

“It’s unclear how different types of brain cells react to cannabis in the context of HIV,” Michael Corley, assistant professor of immunology in medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

“New single-cell technologies will allow us to map these changes at a resolution high enough to examine the effects on specific cell types.”

People living with HIV tend to use cannabis at higher rates than those without HIV, on average, and many have claimed the drug eases their symptoms, which can include nerve pain. But the Cornell researchers say the relationship between cannabis and HIV is still poorly understood when it comes to the brain.

“This support from NIDA will allow us to collect the data we need to explore this relationship,” Lishomwa Ndhlovu, a professor of immunology in medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine and principal investigator of the new study, said in a statement.


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