Scientists have been working day in and day out to produce cannabis chemicals in a lab, and the results so far have proven to be quite overwhelming, if not yet completely viable. Synthesizing these chemicals in a lab will not only contribute to creating a better environment but also result in bringing down the production costs of medical marijuana manifold.
Experts at the University of California, Berkeley have been successful in creating a new laboratory-based method that aims at producing mind-altering cannabis chemicals at a very ‘reasonable’ price. For this purpose, Professor Jay Keasling, a chemical engineer from the said university, and his team first extracted DNA from marijuana leaves, which was then utilized to genetically modify the cells of the brewer’s yeast.
The ‘new’ yeast then broke the stereotype and instead of converting sugar into alcohol, turned the former into chemicals, which when acted upon by enzymes, ended up in a number of desired products viz. tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), etc.
Since cultivating natural cannabis usually consumes an enormous amount of power and water — besides contaminating the neighboring streams with pesticides and fertilizers — this method should come as a relief in terms of cost, conservation of resources and environmental protection. Notably, the marijuana buds are very low in cannabinoids; thus, producing high volumes of THC and non-psychoactive CBD naturally is in itself a mammoth of a task, especially when the cost of extracting these ingredients is very high.
In order to make further breakthroughs in the field of medicine, the researchers are planning to use the same process to synthesize new cannabinoids, which are not even found in plants. The team, though, has already brought into practice a similar approach to create anti-malarial drugs and preservatives for food industries.