Pharmaceutics Assistant Professor, Nichole Klatt is one of five scientists selected to receive the prestigious 2015 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Klatt proposes development of HIV cure strategies by using non-psychoactive cannabinoids as potential therapeutic agents. “There is currently no cure for HIV infection,” notes Klatt. “Even with antiretroviral treatment, HIV decreases health due to chronic inflammation and gastrointestinal dysfunction, which leads to increased morbidity and mortality and a chronic HIV reservoir in infected individuals.”
Since cannabinoids, derivatives of cannabis, have been used to treat nausea and pain and have been shown to be anti-inflammatory in animal models, Klatt theorized that cannabinoids could be effective in reducing inflammation common in HIV patients. “Cannabis (marijuana) has been shown previously to have anti-inflammatory effects and positive benefits to the gastrointestinal tract. With the recent legalization of cannabis in select states, a comprehensive understanding of how cannabis affects HIV infection is imperative,” she added. “The goal of our Avant-Garde research is to understand how cannabis may alter gastrointestinal immunity, inflammation and viral reservoirs in HIV-infected people. We want to determine the mechanisms by which cannabis exerts its effects and develop non-psychoactive cannabinoids as a potential adjunct treatment for HIV infection.”
With proposals ranging from innovative therapies to the development of unique organoid models of the brain, the five scientists will each receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research. NIDA’s annual Avant-Garde Award competition, now in its eighth year, is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug users. NIH’s awards showcase potentially transformative research on prevention, immune system, drug development, and “minibrain” models made of human tissue.
“Despite the success of combined antiretroviral therapies in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, HIV remains a chronic disease with a host of debilitating side effects that are exacerbated in those suffering from substance use disorders,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “These scientists have proposed creative approaches that could transform the way we think about HIV/AIDS research, and could lead to the development of exciting new tools and strategies to prevent infections and improve the lives of substance abusers infected with HIV.”
Read more about the Avant Garde Awards