Discoveries within cannabinoid research continue to break new boundaries, as plant biologists have uncovered high efficiency “hacks” pertaining to how cannabis cells produce Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The breakthrough study, undertaken by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and published in Current Biology, provides much-needed understanding into the natural mechanisms that create cannabinoids inside the plant.
Whilst biotechnology companies have mastered development of cannabinoids in the lab – be it creating synthetic cannabinoids or utilising fermentation to clone cells in yeast – information related to processes within the cannabis plant continues to progress.
Key findings in the study relate to the microenvironments in which THC is produced, transportation in trichomes, and provides a greater understanding on the creation of CBD and THC within the plant’s cells.
Dr. Lacey Samuels, plant biologist at UBC, highlights the importance of such research findings, as “for more than 40 years, everything that we thought about cannabis cells was inaccurate because it was based on dated electron microscopy”.
The research, co-authored by Dr. Samuels and Dr. Livingston, focused around examining cannabis glandular trichomes at a nano level.
Using a rapid freezing technique of the cannabis glandular trichomes, immobilizing the plant’s metabolites and cell structures, electron microscopes enabled the team to witness the development of a miniscule metabolic bio-factory, facilitated by the metabolically active cells in the plant forming a production “supercell”.
Moreover, the research findings provide a better understanding of the subcellular “shipping routes”, creating a channel for transporting raw materials through to the plant’s trichomes.
Samuels continued to outline the significance of this body of work, as it “defines how cannabis cells make their product. It’s a paradigm shift after many years, producing a new view of cannabinoid production”.
As the prohibition of cannabis – and its categorization as a Schedule 1 drug – has stymied decades’ worth of research insights, paired with “the fact that no protocol for the genetic transformation of cannabis has been published”, the discoveries from the UBC lab provide a noteworthy stepping stone on the route to understanding cell development within the cannabis plant.
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