Modulation of pulmonary immune function by inhaled cannabis products and consequences for lung disease
The lungs, in addition to participating in gas exchange, represent the first line of defense against inhaled pathogens and respiratory toxicants. Cells lining the airways and alveoli include epithelial cells and alveolar macrophages, the latter being resident innate immune cells important in surfactant recycling, protection against bacterial invasion and modulation of lung immune homeostasis. Environmental exposure to toxicants found in cigarette smoke, air pollution and cannabis can alter the number and function of immune cells in the lungs. Cannabis (marijuana) is a plant-derived product that is typically inhaled in the form of smoke from a joint. However, alternative delivery methods such as vaping, which heats the plant without combustion, are becoming more common. Cannabis use has increased in recent years, coinciding with more countries legalizing cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Cannabis may have numerous health benefits owing to the presence of cannabinoids that dampen immune function and therefore tame inflammation that is associated with chronic diseases such as arthritis.