Scientists have figured out how cannabis cells make cannabinoids

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Research is uncovering the secrets about how cannabis becomes cannabis

The word cannabinoids refer to all those chemical substances, regardless of their origin or structure, that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body and brain. It has long been asked how cannabis uses its cells to produce these compounds. Plant biologists have finally defined the tricks behind the process that enables cannabis to produce cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While there are a number of biotech companies making efforts to try to engineer CBD or THC without the need of the plant in yeast or cell cultures, it remains unknown how the plant generates the compounds naturally. It should be noted that cannabinoids are compounds that interact with the different systems of the human body and make the effects of the plant part of the health benefits seen today.

“This really helps us understand how the cells in cannabis trichomes can pump out massive quantities of THC and terpenes-compounds that are toxic to the plant cells at high quantities-without poisoning itself,” says Dr. Sam Livingston, a botanist at the University of British Columbia who led the research. He adds that this new model is capable of informing synthetic biology approaches to producing cannabinoids. Without these “tricks,” efficient production could never be achieved.

Humans have focused for centuries on cultivating cannabis for the properties that come from its consumption, especially CBD. The global cannabis market and its productions actually depend largely on the biological activity of small clusters of cells, called glandular trichomes, which are found primarily in the flowers of the plant. Having a study like this sheds light on several critical points in the process of THC or CBD production within the cell.