Scientists announced in August that creating opioid molecules with yeast is now possible, which made some people concerned about others who might produce drugs such as heroin in their home laboratory, although that would be very difficult. Now, scientists from the German Technical University of Dortmund have published a paper showing how yeast can be used to create THC and soon CBD, as the New York Times reported.
THC and CBD are popular chemicals found in cannabis that are believed to be useful for treating many illnesses and diseases. They are also the same kind of CBD and THC molecules found in cannabis, Dr. Oliver Kayser of the Technical University, explained to ATTN:. Synthetic THC and CBD have been created to treat medical conditions, but many studies show that they do not work as well, so making the same THC and CBD cannabis makes is probably better for medicine. The only problem is that scientists have not quite perfected the process in the way they would like.
The researchers used precursor molecules to get the yeast to produce the THC, but they want to create it out of simple sugars, which is how the opioid yeast success was accomplished. That will probably take a little more time, according to experts.
Since cannabis is still illegal in many countries and much of the U.S., the ability to create THC and CBD for research purposes could be a major development. Many researchers have struggled with trying to obtain federally approved marijuana samples for research. That said, yeast is definitely not as effective as cannabis for creating the THC and CBD compounds quite yet.
“Right now, we have a plant that is essentially the Ferrari of the plant world when it comes to producing the chemical of interest,” Dr. Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, told the New York Times. “Cannabis is hard to beat.”
One company, Hyasynth Bio, is working to create THC and CBD with yeast. Kevin Chen, the company’s CEO, believes that yeast could create THC and CBD as well or better than cannabis at some point.
“The plant is already pretty good at producing THC and CBD,” Chen told ATTN:. “There are a lot of other really interesting molecules that we’re looking at, too.”
Chen said having a “consistent, pure and inexpensive source” for THC and CBD is important for medical research. “There’s a lot of different kinds of studies out there, and each one has specific needs,” he said.
“Cannabis is a pretty big and complex picture with a lot of activity and history,” Chen said. “We have a chance at going beyond what cannabis and traditional pharma provide.”
People use marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, and it has already helped many people. Yeast may be able to recreate some of the chemicals cannabis supplies at the same level of effectiveness at some point, but right now the original source is hard to beat.