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Who needs weed when we've got THC-producing yeast?

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Researchers from the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany have reportedly discovered a way to genetically engineer yeast to produce both THC and cannabidiol. THC is the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis which cannabidiol (or CBD) is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Synthetic THC is already sold under brand names like Cesamet. It's often used to treat nausea associated with HIV or cancer therapies. However getting yeast to produce just those chemicals, rather than having to strip them from the plants themselves, could greatly reduce the cost of their production compared to conventional chemical synthesis.

Their study, published in the journal Biotechnology Letters, only covers the THC-producing yeast strain -- information on the cannabidiol strain remains unpublished. Unfortunately, these strains only produce limited quantities of their respective compounds and require a sugar-based precursor to do so. The team hopes to eventually replicate the full THC-production pathway and has already joined forces with THC Pharm of Frankfurt to scale up production.

[Image Credit: top - Getty Images, inline - Oliver Kayser]

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