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article imageTurning tobacco plants into cannabinoid bio-factories

By Tim Sandle     May 12, 2016 in Science
With the medical marijuana market heating up, the company 22nd Century has announced a new initiative to produce medically important cannabinoids in plants other than cannabis, like tobacco plants.
Cannabinoid refers to a diverse class of diverse chemical compounds which act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that repress neurotransmitter release in the brain. The most well-known cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.) This is the primary psychoactive compound in the plant Cannabis, which gives the euphoria feeling gained from smoking marijuana. THC mimics the activity of anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced naturally in the body. The interactions from THC occur with the limbic system (the part of the brain that affects memory, cognition and psychomotor performance); the mesolimbic pathway (associated with feelings of reward); and on areas of pain perception.
It is the effect on pain that is one of the drivers of the medical marijuana market. But what if production in the essential cannabinoids could be stepped up? This is where 22nd Century Group is set to explore aspects of molecular biology designed to, using proprietary technology, facilitate the modification of cannabinoid levels in cannabis. This is made possible by 22nd Century having exclusive rights in the U.S. to genes required for cannabinoid production in the Cannabis plant.
As well as bolstering the cannabinoid levels in the Cannabis plant, and plants other than Cannabis used? Here the company also plan to use so-termed "transcription factor” technology to engineer the tobacco plant to produce cannabinoids via a different cultivar.
In a statement, Dr. Rushton, from 22nd Century, said:“Because cannabis is still not legal at the federal level in the United States, 22nd Century is launching this bold new initiative in order to isolate and produce cannabinoids independent of the Cannabis plant."
The research will operate out from the Cleveland BioLabs building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, in the U.S. The news is not, however, popular with those who are concerned with gene patents. Steve Rolles, for example, who is Senior Policy Analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation (@transformdrugs), tweeted: "Using genetically modified tobacco to make cannabinoids? - The patent and PR issues here are made of wrong."
Controversy over plans to turn tobacco plants into cannabinoid producing machines.
Controversy over plans to turn tobacco plants into cannabinoid producing machines.
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