Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley claim to have produced high-quality, inexpensive cannabinoids from brewer’s yeast that could help create more medical uses and a more cost-effective way of producing the compounds.
And this time, it seems to be for real.
Published February 27 in Nature, the study shows how enzymes are added to yeast to convert the sugar contents into cannabinoids. After much experimentation, the correct enzymes were identified to create cannabinoid CBGA, which then led researchers to produce more commercially desirable cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
Researchers hypothesize that the new method could have a lesser environmental impact than cannabis plant cultivation, and increase accessibility by rendering cannabinoids less expensive for scientists to study.
In the past, yeast has been the source of drugs to treat a variety of afflictions including malaria and diabetes.
It’s not the first time cannabinoids have been derived from yeast. Researchers in Germany successfully engineered cannabinoid THC out of yeast in 2015, although the yield was very small. The following year, Canadian biotech group Hyasynth made similar advances.
Experts say replacing cannabis plants with yeast could reduce or remove the need for large-scale cannabis grows, which can yield a significant amount of waste and increase the risk of environmental strain that can be caused by commercial greenhouses.
The new product has now been licensed to Demetrix, a biotech company founded by study co-author Jay Keasling. The company is in the process of industrializing the microbe in the hopes of increasing production volume. Keasling predicts that more synthetic cannabinoids will be available for study over the next year.
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