The CBD industry is one of the fastest growing industries over the past few years – not only in the UK but all around the world. Because of this fact, the investment into the industry into both research and consumption has skyrocketed and can be expected to do so in the future and it is amazing to see what scientists are able to do.
For millennia, the only entity that has been able to produce cannabinoids on a reasonable scale is the cannabis plant. It makes perfect sense. There are other plants, such as cacao and flaxseed, that produce substances that act as cannabinoids, but they produced nothing like the famous two cannabinoids; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that are produced within the cannabis plant.
Until now. Research scientists specialising in synthetic biology at the University of California have recently announced that they have engineered a yeast that can produce both THC and CBD. Scientists have also announced they can also engineer a multitude of other cannabinoids that are not found in the cannabis plant itself. This breakthrough could potentially pave the way for new exciting substances to be researched for their medical and psychoactive properties.
CBD is a cannabinoid within the cannabis plant. It has taken a foothold in the medical world within Canada and the USA and has recently just been legalised in the UK. It has also taken the essential health-food industry by storm and people all around world are starting to hear about this substance.
So, why is being able to produce CBD from yeast such an important discovery – can’t we just keep taking CBD from cannabis plants? Well, aside from the novel aspect that the substance that produces beer can be engineered into producing cannabis derivates. What is special about CBD from yeast is that the yeast can be specifically engineered to produce just one cannabinoid and simply feeds itself from sugar. You can bio-program the yeast to produce exactly what you desire, and it does it for you. It is a completely safe way of producing cannabinoids.
Currently the cost of producing cannabinoids such as CBD and THC through the yeast method is slightly more expensive than the conventional methods of extraction and isolation from the cannabis plant. It does however come into its own with some of the smaller known cannabinoids that exist in minute quantities within the cannabis plant. These smaller cannabinoids require a higher number of cannabis plants to make a set quantity of cannabinoids compared to THC and CBD but can be produced just as quick using yeast.
This means that cannabinoids that have been difficult to obtain in large quantities could now become easily accessible to research science.
This discovery highlights a new possibility for therapy from these lesser-known cannabinoids, as well as cannabinoids that don’t exist in nature. It is a discovery that has made cannabis research scientists very excited because they will no longer have to spend time and resources waiting for small amounts of the lesser known cannabinoids.
A lot of people inherently have a mistrust of scientifically synthetic methods of production of certain substances, preferring a more natural method of producing substance. They are ways in which CBD has been produced in a lab environment synthetically already that only produced minute quantities of CBD as well as the requirement to isolate the CBD from some nasty solvents it formed in.
What is great about this new method from yeast is that it takes a natural process and synthetically adjusts it. But underneath it is still a natural process. The same technique is currently used to produce multiple other medicines – such as insulin, human growth hormone (HRH) and more recently morphine and other opiates.
The research into CBD from yeast was initially conducted because scientists wanted to discover a ‘green’ way in which to produced cannabinoids that didn’t involve powering big factories and also one that didn’t require the manpower it takes to prune cannabis crops in order to gain a good yield. All of this not only contributes to energy consumption, it also adds to the price of the product you are buying. It is estimated that the cost of cannabis-based medicines will fall at some point in the future due to this technique.
As it stands, it is looking like a completely positive discovery for the cannabis industry. The costs are competitive, and you can produce pure cannabinoids, so your CBD can be quickly and completely isolated from any THC product so no psychoactive effects.
A negative aspect for me is the fact that it completely isolates cannabinoids. If the method of extraction of CBD in this manner becomes popular we may see a vast reduction in the price of pure-CBD products so much that the range of full-spectrum products that contain a big range of different cannabinoids could become obsolete. It has been suggested that the full-spectrum products interact better with the human body because of the ‘entourage effect’. This states that a range of cannabinoids exhibit a synergistic effect which means they have a better effect than an isolated cannabinoid.
It could also have potential connotations for the industrial hemp industry in the long run, but as it has recently become a rapidly growing industry, the chances are slim.
Despite this, things are looking good on the whole for the newly discovered method.