The newest Professor at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Mahesh Mohan, D.V.M, M.S., Ph.D., is an HIV researcher who focuses on what happens at the sub-cellular level when a person is infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Recently, he has branched out into studying the use of cannabinoids (a psychoactive component in marijuana) to manage the inflammation that often accompanies an HIV infection. His research could lead to new insights into using cannabinoids to treat other illnesses as well.
“HIV infection results in chronic inflammation. We are working to identify where the changes occur and try to reverse the problem with new feasible pharmacological approaches,” Mohan said.
While the development of antiretroviral medications to treat HIV means an infection with the virus is no longer a death sentence, many patients still experience significant health issues. Dr. Mohan explained that people with HIV age faster, and are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and enteropathy (a small intestine disease). His primary work is to find ways to alleviate the inflammation that creates these medical conditions.
Dr. Mohan will also be a member of the Southwest National Primate Research Center on the Texas Biomed campus. He came from the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, where he worked with rhesus macaques. These animals are a good model for his research, as they can be infected with a monkey version of HIV called SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus).
Earlier research has shown that cannabinoids can have an anti-inflammatory effect on SIV-infected monkeys when given at a certain dose. Dr. Mohan says compounds for humans may end up being some kind of synthetic drug that targets the same receptor as cannabinoids, without the use of marijuana.
“There is so much suffering people undergo because of chronic inflammation created by infectious diseases, noninfectious health conditions and aging,” Dr. Mohan commented. “Ancient people used the marijuana leaves for medical purposes centuries ago. I’m very excited about moving this from nonhuman primates to the clinic. At small doses, no adverse side effects were detected after prolonged treatment.”
Dr. Mohan earned his B.V.Sc. (equivalent to D.V.M.) at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University at Madras Veterinary College in India. He earned an M.S. in Reproductive Biology from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Then he studied at Oklahoma State University, where he received a Ph.D. in Veterinary Biomedical Sciences before moving on to Tulane for his post-doctoral training.
Dr. Mohan is a member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, the American Association of Microbiology, and the American Association of Immunology. In 2016, he received special recognition for Outstanding Achievement and Commitment to Excellence in Total Competitive Research Funding at Tulane University, where he also was also acknowledged with the Auxiliary Research Center Development Award to a Young Professor. At OSU, he earned the Research Excellence Award and the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Doctoral Candidate.
“Dr. Mohan’s cannabinoid research program brings a new area of interest to our institute, but one that compliments ongoing research at Texas Biomed,” said VP for Research Joanne Turner, Ph.D. “I anticipate that Dr. Mohan will collaborate with faculty that study a variety of infectious and metabolic diseases in one or more of our scientific programs (Disease Intervention & Prevention, Host-Pathogen Interactions, and Population Health).”
Dr. Mohan’s ongoing research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totals more than $6 million. At Texas Biomed, he plans to expand his research with collaborators on campus in other areas like tuberculosis, aging, Parkinson’s and celiac disease.