In Focus:

Marijuana may help HIV patients keep mental stamina longer

A chemical found in marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has been found to potentially slow the process in which mental decline can occur in up to 50 percent of HIV patients, says a new Michigan State University study.

"It's believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain," said Norbert Kaminski, lead author of the study, now published in the journal AIDS. "This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease."

Kaminski and his co-author, Mike Rizzo, a graduate student in toxicology, discovered that the compounds in marijuana were able to act as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the number of inflammatory white blood cells, called monocytes, and decreasing the proteins they release in the body.

"This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer," Rizzo said.

The two researchers took blood samples from 40 HIV patients who reported whether or not they used marijuana. Then, they isolated the white blood cells from each donor and studied inflammatory cell levels and the effect marijuana had on the

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