BERKELEY (CBS SF) – Scientists have found a way to produce the psychoactive cannabis compound known as THC, and its therapeutic cousin CBD, from genetically modified beer yeast.
Researchers at the University of Berkeley modified a sugar (galactose) found in brewer’s yeast into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The chemical THC is what produces the ‘high’ sensation for marijuana users. Patients use CBD for certain therapeutic benefits, including reducing pain and anxiety.READ MORE: San Francisco Bay Area Dodges Weather Threat; Dozens Of Lightning Strikes Remain Offshore
Brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is used for brewing beer, making alcoholic liquors, and baking bread.
The team, lead by synthetic biologist Jay Keasling, made 16 genetic modifications to transform the sugar into THC and CBD. They also created cannabinoids that don’t occur in nature, which if proven to have any therapeutic properties, could be marketed as cannabis-based medicine.READ MORE: Update: Former California Senator Barbara Boxer Assaulted, Robbed In Oakland's Jack London District
The study was published in the February 27 issue of Nature.
Scientists hope some day to produce these synthetic cannabinoids more cheaply and in greater quantities.MORE NEWS: One Killed, One Injured In Berkeley Vehicle-Pedestrian Collision
In the early 2000s, Keasling’s team engineered yeast to synthetically create the anti-malarial drug known as artemisinin.