Scientists Say Nanotechnology in Cannabis Needs Cautious Approach, More Research

Article by Nick England, Vancouver Sun

Scientists say nanotechnology in cannabis needs cautious approach, more research Trait Biosciences uses glycosylation to turn fat-based cannabinoids into water-soluble ones. It says nanotechnology used by other firms is risky. NICK EAGLAND Trait Biosciences is set to unveil its water-soluble cannabinoids, in liquid and powder form, on June 10 in California. SUBMITTED: TRAIT BIOSCIENCES / PNG

A Toronto cannabis firm is urging consumers to by wary of potential health risks in pot edibles and medicines that use nanotechnology, while at the same time unveiling a competitive product.

Trait Biosciences has developed technology to transform fat-based cannabinoids into water-soluble cannabinoids, which can then be produced commercially for food, beverages and nutraceuticals. It is set to unveil its cannabinoid products, in liquid and powder form, on Monday in California.

Meantime, several cannabis firms and labs have instead been pursuing nanotechnology as a means to infuse products with cannabinoids.

Trait uses glycosylation, which adds a sugar molecule to a cannabinoid molecule to make it water-soluble. The firm says its products affect people’s bodies faster than fat-based cannabinoids, and have increased stability, quality assurance and product shelf life.

Nanotechnology, on the other hand, produces tiny cannabinoid particles that are smaller than 200 nanometres (a strand of human hair is about 75,000 nanometres wide) to increase their bioavailability in the human body. The technology is already used in some food and drugs.

But Trait says consumers need to inform themselves about the potential risk of nanoparticles in cannabis products, particularly given that edibles and drinks are expected to hit Canada’s legal market this fall.

Dr. Richard Sayre, chief scientific officer at Trait, said his primary concern is the potential for non-target effects.

“Nanoparticles can permeate into many different types of tissues and you can’t really control that,” he said.

Sayre said he’s also concerned about the accumulation of emulsification agents. Nanotechnology works in drug delivery but hasn’t been used at a consumer scale where people are consuming large amounts of material over many days, he said.

An OECD report on opportunities and risks with nanotechnologies outlines some of the uncertainties with the technology, warning that it is unclear whether nanoparticles can pass from a pregnant woman’s body into an unborn child.

As well, “it is possible that durable, biopersistent nanoparticles may accumulate in the body, in particular in the lungs, in the brain and in the liver,” according to the report.

Ronan Levy, chief strategy officer at Trait Biosciences, said he understands why other firms are using nanotechnology, which allows them to put oil-based cannabinoids into drinks that won’t separate into layers like salad dressing.

But for most people using cannabis for recreational and wellness purposes, there’s no reason for them to risk putting nanoparticles into their bodies, he said.

“Especially when there are technologies like ours that deliver all the benefits of nanotechnology,” he said.

Dr. Anubhav Pratap Singh, assistant professor at the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of B.C., agreed that people should be aware of potential risks of ingesting nanoparticles, particularly in the sub-100 nanometre range.

Read the full article here.

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