Gene-Edited Yeast Create Cannabinoids THC & CBD

Gene-Edited Yeast Create Cannabinoids THC & CBD

A team of synthetic biologists at the University of California, Berkeley have engineered brewer’s yeast to produce the cannabinoids Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Similar to the process of brewing beer, the biologists fed this special bacteria a diet of sugar in order to produce the cannabinoids.

Jay Keasling, a UC Berkeley professor stated “we wanted to produce cannabinoids in a better way”. For those of you who are new to the world of cannabis, cannabinoids come from cannabis plants – marijuana and hemp. These plants require massive fields and resources in order to be grown correctly. We should also mention the legal process of growing marijuana is still extremely difficult due to current laws in the United States.

Their Goals

The team took cannabinoid producing genes out of cannabis plants and combined them with genes found in brewer’s yeast. According to professor Keasling, “the entire process is as simple as brewing beer, except rather than having the yeast make ethanol, it makes cannabinoids.”

If this process proves to succeed as a mainstream technique, it could potentially turn the hemp and marijuana industry upside down. This process cuts out a plethora of excessive costs and time. For Keasling and cannabis farmers, only time will tell if this method succeeds in the future.

Problems With Current Extraction Methods

Extracting cannabinoids from cannabis can be an expensive process. Although there are a handful of different methods including; alcohol extraction, CO2 extraction, and butane/propane extraction. The CO2 method is the most common, but although it creates high yield, it can be extremely expensive for a small cannabis operation.

Growing the Hemp Plant Takes Time

Although the hemp plant fully matures rather quickly in about 70-90 days, that’s still a significant amount of time to spend if you’re simply trying to extract the compounds from the plant. Keasling explains that his process is cheaper, faster, and helps save the environment. In California about 3% of all electrical usage is for cannabis cultivation. In Colorado, 50% of the growth in electrical usage has been attributed to cannabis growth.

According to Keasling, the amount of money needed to grow and produce cannabinoids in his lab is about a tenth lower than what it would cost to grow hemp in a field.

Purer Compounds

When one grows cannabis, there are a wide variety of compounds and terpenes created. Although these are great for cannabis lovers who enjoy a full-spectrum product, it’s difficult to produce pure compounds from normal cannabis growth.

Keasling explains how the yeast is able to create pure forms of the compounds THC and CBD. This could be extremely helpful as THC is used both recreationally and medically for AIDS and cancer patients. Recently, CBD has been explored in cosmetic products and has been used as a possible suppressant for pain and anxiety.

Using The Yeast For Laboratory Study

There are about 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Unfortunately, extracting each one of these compounds can be extremely difficult due to their rarity. This yeast-based method could open up the door to the cultivation of these lesser known compounds in a pure form. Since certain cannabinoids are produced in such low quantities, their potentials are not yet known. Newly modified yeast could create these lesser known cannabinoids in pure forms in order to properly research them.

Does This Mean Growing Marijuana Will Become Obsolete?

Growing hemp and marijuana will never become obsolete as long as laws continue to allow it. U.S. Laws are becoming looser and less restrictive which is great news for anyone growing cannabis. In addition, many cannabis users enjoy the feeling of rolling up flower and using it in a more natural way.

Although these yeast-cultivated cannabinoids are in their purest form, they will not contain the terpenes, flavors, smells, and cannabinoids. Many users look for these compounds when buying their cannabis products. This is problematic as recent studies suggest having multiple different cannabinoids and compounds heighten the benefits for the human body.

The Bottom Line

This breakthrough is exceptional for a handful of reasons. It may save companies thousands if not millions of dollars per year to create cannabinoid products. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, companies will look for new ways to save money. Only time will tell to see if this is the way of the future.

But, as amazing as this process is, we do not believe that it will make growing cannabis a thing of the past. As laws become looser throughout the country, we feel growing cannabis will become more popular before it becomes less popular.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below!


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