As countries around the world are starting to see the benefits of cannabis, ways to produce it are getting wider and wider. From outdoor growing with the sun as the main source of energy, to the indoor grow ops that uses LED lights and fans to simulate outdoor conditions, technology has helped produce cannabis efficiently and with good quality. And now, a new technology being developed by the Canadian company Hyasynth Bio is trying to produce a compound found in cannabis made in genetically modified yeast that can help patients with epilepsy. Also, this technology could also make other compounds found in cannabis like THC and CBD from yeast.
Cannabidivarin or CBDV is a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana plants that has evidence that can treat severe cases of epilepsy. But treating a patient with pure CBDV would require a whole lot of the compound. With current methods, gathering just a small batch of CBDV would require large quantities of the plant material. "There's so little of this chemical in plants it would actually be impossible to harvest it by traditional means," says Kevin Chen, who runs Hyasynth Bio.
To produce CBDV without using large quantities of marijuana plants, the company added a part of cannabis DNA that codes for CBDV into yeast DNA, in a process that's called cellular agriculture. The yeast then turns into CBDV producers. Their work was presented at the 2017 New Harvest conference in New York this October. Once this is optimized, using yeast will make harvesting compounds like CBDV efficient and cost-effective, says Tom Williams at Macquarie University in Australia.
Other pharmaceutical companies have been in contact with Hyasynth Bio, says Chen. GW Pharmaceuticals is even conducting clinical tests on CBDV for treating epilepsy. And if more medical applications for the cannabis plant are discovered, using yeast to produce cannabinoids would make those compounds faster than traditional methods. And as a Canadian company, Hyasynth Bio is also planning to play in the recreational marijuana field, Chen told the New Harvest conference.
If ever we get to see THC-producing yeast in our lifetime, munchies would get a while lot higher.
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