Scientists have discovered that it is possible to grow a diverse array of cannabinoids, many of which are only found in small quantities in the plant, using yeast in a laboratory setting!
That’s right, no seeds, plants or flowers required. Just genes from cannabis combined with a specific type of yeast to produce cannabinoids.
The technique, which produces cannabinoids from a type of sugar called galactose, represents a very cost-effective way to extract cannabinoids from the cannabis plant.
The implications of this are huge. In fact, it should make it possible for there to be an abundance of cannabinoid medicines for testing and use without having to go through the lengthy and complex growing cycle.
New Ways Of Creating Cannabinoids
Cannabis growing does have an environmental footprint, especially large indoor growing operations. Add to that the extraction methods used following the growth cycle of the plant and you have quite the production line, which could easily become unsustainable.
This new method of growing cannabinoids is a total game changer for medical research. It has even made the production of difficult-to-grow cannabinoids possible where previously it had not been.
“It gives us access to all these rare cannabinoids that might even be better therapeutics,” according to Jay Keasling from the University of California, Berkeley, the lead scientist behind the discovery.
But not only that. The innovation means there is the “possibility of new therapies based on novel cannabinoids: the rare ones that are nearly impossible to get from the plant, or the unnatural ones, which are impossible to get from the plant.”
The need for CBD and THC
CBD, which is being used widely to treat childhood epilepsy – as well as in food supplements, beauty and wellness products – is being adopted increasingly every day as more people learn of its incredible potential.
There are a plethora of conditions that CBD can treat and we are only very much at the beginning of this journey. Therefore, cheaper sources of producing cannabinoids like CBD can only be a good thing.
Similarly, THC has potent therapeutic effects that are already benefiting millions around the world. THC-rich cannabis, however, is still largely illegal in most countries.
Yeast-produced THC may well become a reliable and cheap option for a large number of patients.
Big CBD market moves
It would appear that with these developments, and recent moves by a Canadian company growing CBD in Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, we may see the price of CBD medicines coming down in the not-too-distant future.
The facility in the DRC is able to produce 2 million kilos of cannabis oil per year! So either way, it’s looking like cannabinoid medicines are going to become a lot more widespread and readily available as time goes on.
And it’s not just cannabinoids…
Other drugs have also now been ‘grown’ using yeast. Shockingly, the method is set to make an impact on the opioid industry, with a similar technology that enables people to produce their own opioids at home with yeast. What could possibly go wrong?
On the positive side, this technology, if adopted by the public (which surely it will be at some stage), could turn the war on drugs completely on its head.
Home-grown cannabinoids with no need for expensive growing equipment would be impossible to police. Just look at the spore kits for growing magic mushrooms which are widely available online.
The future of cannabinoid medicine?
Of course, isolated cannabinoids are still lacking many of the constituents that make cannabis special (think of the entourage effect).
However, it’s the complexity of natural cannabis is what makes it hard to standardise and use in a medical setting.
Therefore, if this innovation can make these chemicals so easy to reliably produce on their own, it could have a huge influence on the global medical cannabis industry.