Article by Joeseph Hall, Toronto Star
For pot to gain the vast popularity it’s achieved, it had to go viral.
Now teams of Canadian and U.S. scientists have located the genes responsible for the sought-after kick of cannabis — genes that had been hidden to researchers amid vast stretches of the “junk” DNA deposited in the plant’s genome by viruses during its evolution.
The discovery will make it much easier to manipulate the levels of intoxicating THC and medicinal CBD contained in the plant to suit varied customer preferences in the newly legalized Canadian market, the researchers say.
“You can only manipulate a gene when you know where it is located,” says Harm van Bakel, one of the key research contributors. “And you also need to know something about the rest of the sequencing in the genome so that you can uniquely target the gene of interest and not be sidetracked by … other things that look similar,” says van Bakel, a genomic expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The chemical makeup of the genes that produce THC and CBD — the plant’s two main cannabinoids — had been known to scientists for decades. Researchers had previously isolated the RNA those genes created — the molecules that actually manufacture the active cannabinoid components.