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“Ed Browne, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, is the principal investigator of a $4-million, 5-year study of the role of cannabis use in HIV latency – one of the main barriers toward curing people with the infection. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the NIH, is funding the Browne lab in the UNC HIV Cure Center for a study on the effects of cannabis use on the reservoir of HIV that is dormant within patients but becomes activated and spreads when antiretroviral medications are ceased. This phenomenon is called HIV latency, and it’s considered the main barrier to eradicating the virus that causes AIDS. UNC HIV Cure Center researcher Ed Browne, PhD, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Medicine, is the principal investigator of this $4-million, 5-year research project. He is a member of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. Increasing evidence suggests that drugs of abuse, such as the cannabis (or marijuana), affect the size and nature of the virus reservoir. Cannabis activates the CB2 receptors that are widely expressed on the surface of immune cells, including the CD4 T cells. “Our hypothesis is that cannabis exposure during HIV infection alters the size, location, and genetic characteristics of the latent HIV reservoir through the activation of CB2-dependent cell signaling in CD4 T cells,” Browne said. He added, “Defining the impact of cannabis on the latent HIV reservoir will be important to designing appropriate approaches to clear the reservoir from people with HIV who use these drugs.”” This story was originally published by the UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom on July 8, 2021 – read more here.