Published: Sun, March 03, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Researchers Produce High Quality Cannabis at Low Cost in Lab

Researchers Produce High Quality Cannabis at Low Cost in Lab

Explaining further, the team said: "Turning yeast into chemical factories involves co-opting their metabolism so that, instead of turning sugar into alcohol, for example, yeast convert sugar into other chemicals that are then modified by added enzymes to produce a new product, such as THC, that the yeast secrete into the liquid surrounding them".

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley claim to have produced high-quality, affordable cannabinoids from brewer's yeast that could help create more medical uses and a more cost-effective way of producing the compounds.

Global CBD-packaged food sales will double over the next two years as consumer awareness about the cannabinoid's benefits grows and as THC products become more mainstream, meaning that outcome-based products containing parts of cannabis will dominate the market and blur the boundaries between food and consumer health. "Essentially what we've done is taken yeast, which would normally produce ethanol for beer or wine, and we put in it the gene for producing cannabinoids", he says. Although we still have a lot to learn about its effects on the body, research suggests it is safer to use than alcohol and tobacco, so it's perhaps not all that surprising that cannabis, its extracts, and THC-containing medicines are now legal in various countries and U.S. states.

As well as producing well-known cannabinoids, Keasling's team was able to coax the yeast into producing much rarer derivatives - including some which aren't even made by cannabis plants - by feeding it fatty acids as well as sugars. Researchers also engineered the yeast to synthesize novel cannabinoids not found in the marijuana plant.

The yeast is more important for what it can do for other cannabinoids.

One step, however, proved to be a roadblock for Keasling's group and competing groups: an enzyme that performs a key chemical step in making CBGA in the marijuana plant didn't work in yeast. Applying heat to the cannabinoids then changes them into their active forms.

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Rather than engineer a different synthetic pathway, Berkeley postdoc Leo d'Espaux and graduate student Jeff Wong went back to the plant itself and isolated a second enzyme, prenyl transferase, that does the same thing, and stuck it in the yeast.

Once they had yeast-producing CBGA, they added another enzyme to convert CBGA to THCA and a different enzyme to create a pathway to CBDA. The researchers needed to develop 16 genetic modifications to transform galactose into inactive forms of CBD or THC. The presents study is the first to show that, "It actually works inside one cell, which is cool", Kevin Chen, chief executive of Hyasynth Bio, said to Nature. But yeast are little powerhouses that can churn out the substances for scientists to study and consumers to use. Not only could such a method reduce the environmental burden of producing cannabinoids, it would also permit manufacturers to manufacture cannabinoids of extremely high purity for use in pharmaceuticals.

"The economics look really good", Keasling said in a canned statement.

Leading this will be CBD- and THC-based vitamins and dietary supplements, which Euromonitor forecasts will make up 2 per cent of that segment's total value sales by 2025, followed by topical analgesics, sleeping aids and sports nutrition, Euromonitor stated. "The cost is competitive or better than that for the plant-derived cannabinoids".

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation (1330914).

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