As we celebrate Black History Month, the contributions of black scientists, both men and women, often go unacknowledged in a world where the importance of science is being overlooked, even denied, by our own leaders.

Having said that, the beat goes on.

A group of scientists, led by noted Jamaican cancer researcher Dr. Henry Lowe, have discovered a breakthrough in the treatment of hepatitis C—using cannabidiol (CBD).

Dr. Lowe’s team from the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica (UWI) announced that CBD is very destructive to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is responsible for cirrhosis of the liver and also causes liver cancer.

“We report here for the first time in vitro studies to demonstrate the antiviral activity of CBD against HCV,” Lowe told the Jamaican Observer. He added that cannabidiol was shown to have activity against HCV in vitro but not against the hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Working with CBD, one of the major bioactive compounds in cannabis, Lowe noted that this new discovery has the potential to provide affordable treatment in the form of nutraceuticals (pharmaceutical-grade and standardized nutrients) and pharmaceuticals for hepatitis C.

Lowe, a pioneer in the research of medical cannabis, said there is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C and only one drug to treat HCV, which can cost upwards of $100,000.

“So it is very important that we find less expensive means of treatment, and that is why this discovery and its potential to manage this disease is so important,” Lowe explained.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C is particularly low in poor and developing countries, killing approximately 700,000 people each year. WHO also notes that Afrocentric people have substantially higher rates of chronic hepatitis C and hepatitis C-related deaths as compared to other ethnic groups.

“This is a new discovery which has fantastic potential for the future, especially for people in developing countries,” Lowe said.

The discovery made by Lowe and his research team was reported in the most recent issue of Pharmacognosy Research.

Dr. Lowe’s Researchers—A Team To Keep An Eye On

Dr. Ngeh Toyang, a senior scientist on Lowe’s research team, is based at their lab in Baltimore, Maryland. Toyang specializes in the research and development of novel health-care products from medicinal plant resources.

Wayne McLaughlin is a professor of molecular biology in the UWI Medical School at the Mona Campus in Jamaica. He is also chairman of the Medicanja Scientific Advisory Committee.

Medicanja was established in December 2013 by Lowe to chart the way forward in the development of a medical marijuana industry in Jamaica.

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