16 September 2009

Hemp oil – separately, dope – separately

Scientists are close to creating cannabis without cannabioidsElena Novoselova, STRF.ru
Scientists from the University of Minnesota (USA) have identified genes regulating the synthesis of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of marijuana.

The study of the work of these genes is promising not only for the synthesis of new effective drugs, but also for the creation of GM varieties of cannabis with a reduced content of cannabioids for use as a technical culture in order to obtain fiber and hemp oil.

In the course of these studies, scientists compared the gene expression profiles of more than 2,000 cannabis plants. As a result, genes regulating all stages of THC synthesis were selected. Next, the scientists created genetically modified lines of cannabis plants in which candidate genes were switched off alternately. It turned out that the main role in the synthesis of THC is played by a group of genes that regulate the activity of glands – the thinnest hairs that pubes the plant.

The genus cannabis includes one species of Cannabis sativa with two subspecies: C.sativa – seed hemp and C.indica – Indian hemp, which differ from each other, including the concentration of cannabioids. For example, the cultivation of cannabis is legally prohibited in the United States. Although the THC content in seed hemp (0.3%) is much less than in the Indian hemp subspecies (25%), the ban on cultivation also applies to technical crops, previously very popular for the production of textile fiber.

Scientists believe that if you "turn off" these genes, the plant will lose its narcotic properties and its widespread planting will become possible. The creation of transgenic varieties, with enhanced production of cannabioids, will make it possible to obtain effective medicines. Currently, drugs containing synthetic THC (marinol and its analogues) are used in the USA, Canada and European countries to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer and to combat weight loss syndrome with AIDS. Recent studies suggest that this drug may also be effective for glaucoma, Tourette's syndrome, phantom and neuropathic pain.

The results of the work are published in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

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