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Scientists genetically modify yeast to produce CBD and THC

Published on 28/02/19 at 10:33am

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have genetically modified brewer’s yeast so that it produces two common cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

The scientists, led by Jay Keasling, a professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering, claim their method would be able to create yeasts which produces other rare cannabinoids as well. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

“The study and medicinal use of cannabinoids has been hampered by the legal scheduling of Cannabis, the low in planta abundances of nearly all of the dozens of known cannabinoids, and their structural complexity, which limits bulk chemical synthesis,” the paper says.

Cannabis plants contain more than 100 different cannabinoids, the majority of which are produced at much lower concentrations than CBD or THC. As such, due to small yields, rare cannabinoids are often expensive to produce.

Cannabinoid producing yeast’s could however produce purer versions of rare cannabinoids and thus bring down the price.

“What this method can do is provide some of these very rare cannabinoids that you’d never be able to extract out of cannabis, because they’re produced in such small quantities. And who knows—one of those might be better than CBD or THC,” Keasling said.

“It’s a platform for producing all of the cannabinoids that are currently thought to exist in cannabis as well as all these unnatural ones that you’d never find in any organism. There might be a blockbuster drug or two in some of those rare ones,” the professor added.

Louis Goss

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