Researchers grow cannabis with ‘extremely high levels of THC’ (and other cannabinoids / terpenes)

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The Israeli professor Raphael Mechoulam – ‘father of cannabis research’ and professor of medical chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – was the first scientist to discover tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in 1964, the main ingredient of the cannabis plant that produces its psychoactive effects. His successors in Israel have now developed cannabis strains that contain far more cannabinoids – including THC – than are commonly found in cannabis strains.

Broad collaboration to improve cannabis genetics

Mechoulam was also the first to isolate and synthesize the active psychoactive ingredients from cannabis, both THC and other cannabinoids. These discoveries form the basis of modern medical cannabis research. In his footsteps, a new group of researchers from the Hebrew University has now successfully developed a cannabis plant with higher levels of cannabinoids, including THC.

The researchers from Professor Alexander Vainstein’s laboratory at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at Rehovot are working with the University of Jerusalem. They received grants from Mariana Bioscience, an Israeli R & D company, to develop superior technologies for the genetic improvement of cannabis. Prof. dr. Vainstein leads the project.

Cannabis with an extremely high amount of THC and several terpenes

The Israeli researchers are able to successfully develop and breed a cannabis plant with almost 17 percent higher levels of THC and 25 percent higher levels of CBG (cannabigerol). The latter is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. The strain also has a 20 to 30 percent higher presence of terpenes, which are responsible for maximizing the euphoric and medicinal effects of cannabis.

“The researchers were able to develop their own cannabis plant by manipulating a plant virus that was first neutralized. This means that the virus in question can not harm the plant, “the university said in a statement. The researchers can create a version of this virus that” expresses “the plant’s genes and thus affects the production of active substances.

Researchers in Israel can use a virus to cause the cannabis plant to produce extremely high levels of THC … [foto: PRO Stock Professional/Shutterstock]

Development of new medical cannabis strains

Until now, there was no way to modify strains to produce certain cannabis compounds or change the relationship between them, says Professor Vainstein to the website No camels† The results of this research are valuable to medical science. This makes it possible to breed and develop new strains for users of medical cannabis and to increase the crop yield of active substances.

The researchers are developing an innovative infection-based technology using a engineered virus to enable chemical reactions that increase the amount of substances desired. “We examined the infected plants and found that the levels of those substances had actually increased,” says Vainstein.

This is the first time that researchers have succeeded in achieving such a feat with cannabis plants.

Same space, better production

Vainstein: “It is important to be able to generate more out of the same amount of space. For example, if you grow a plant in a greenhouse and you get a 20 percent improvement, the price of the material will depend on the compounds you extract. Then the amount of extracts you can make determines the price. So growers can generate more revenue with the same amount of space coverage. I am not familiar with approaches that can improve production speed. That makes it exciting for me as a researcher. ”

The purpose of the study is to develop a mechanism by which researchers can intervene in the biochemical pathways of the cannabis plant. This allows them to change the levels of the active substances it produces. Ultimately, the grower will be able to determine which components – and how many of these components – are developing in the cannabis strain.

Depending on public demand, these strains can be produced by medical institutions or by (medical) home growers themselves. The results show that this technology allows the producer / grower to choose what the strain should or should not contain.

“This way of looking at it is the method of getting better material. Instead of having a lot of connections that you do not care about, you have specific connections that are needed for a particular person. Specific aromas or specific colors can also be added to the variety, ”says Vainstein.

Terpenes are also of great importance

Vainstein uses aroma as an example of a component that can be found in a cannabis strain: “We can add different aromas to the plant so that they not only generate cannabinoids but also different terpenes. So it will smell different. We are well on our way with terpen production. So it is also a huge advantage, we hope. “

In the future, they want to generate varieties using metabolic technique, based on the knowledge and experiments already performed. They want to generate varieties that produce specific cannabinoids or specific proportions.

Vainstein adds that more extensive experiments with the constructed plant are currently underway. These should be available to developers in the cannabis industry and for medical scientific research in the coming months …

[openingsbeeld: DyrElena/Shutterstock]

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