by Barbara Malinowska, Marta Baranowska-Kuczko , Aleksandra Kicman  and Eberhard Schlicker

Int. J. Mol. Sci.202122(4),1986; Received: 11 January 2021 / Revised: 11 February 2021 / Accepted: 12 February 2021 / Published: 17 February 2021

Figure 1
Expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in human tissues and organs, its counter-regulatory effects on the ACE → Ang II → AT1 axis and interaction with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). ACE2 is ubiquitous and widely expressed in many organs targeted and damaged by COVID-19 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a membrane-bound enzyme and an endogenous counter-regulator of the renin-angiotensin hormonal cascade. It degrades angiotensin II (Ang II) to angiotensin 1-7 (Ang 1-7) that exerts beneficial effects opposed to those of Ang II. Ang 1-7 acts through the G protein-coupled receptor MAS and, to a lesser extent, Ang II type 2 receptors (AT2). ACE and ACE2 and their major products, Ang II and Ang 1-7, respectively, are linked in almost a ying/yang process, that is, when one decreases, the other increases and vice versa [18
]. Thus, reduced activity of the deleterious ACE → Ang II → Ang II receptor type 1 (AT1) axis (red) is coupled with increased activity of the protective ACE2 → Ang 1-7 → MAS receptor axis (green). A lower ACE/ACE2 ratio (A) (occurring in women, in exercise-trained individuals and patients well-treated with ACE inhibitors (ACE-I)) leads to beneficial effects such as vasorelaxation, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-fibrotic and anti-thrombotic effects that predispose towards a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and better COVID-19 outcomes. By contrast, a high ACE/ACE2 ratio (B) that is increased in males, elderly and many pathologies (especially CVD, pulmonary and renal diseases and obesity) may aggravate COVID-19 infection [19 ,20 ,21, 22].


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection may lead to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which, in turn, may be associated with multiple organ dysfunction. In this review, we present advantages and disadvantages of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid from the cannabis plant, as a potential agent for the treatment of COVID-19. CBD has been shown to downregulate proteins responsible for viral entry and to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication. Preclinical studies have demonstrated its effectiveness against diseases of the respiratory system as well as its cardioprotective, nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective and anti-convulsant properties, that is, effects that may be beneficial for COVID-19. Only the latter two properties have been demonstrated in clinical studies, which also revealed anxiolytic and antinociceptive effects of CBD (given alone or together with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which may be important for an adjuvant treatment to improve the quality of life in patients with COVID-19 and to limit post-traumatic stress symptoms. However, one should be aware of side effects of CBD (which are rarely serious), drug interactions (also extending to drugs acting against COVID-19) and the proper route of its administration (vaping may be dangerous). Clearly, further clinical studies are necessary to prove the suitability of CBD for the treatment of COVID-19. 

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