Researchers close in on engineering recognizable, drug-free Cannabis plant

By chillinwill · Sep 15, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    U of Minnesota researchers identify genes producing THC

    In a first step toward engineering a drug-free Cannabis plant for hemp fiber and oil, University of Minnesota researchers have identified genes producing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Studying the genes could also lead to new and better drugs for pain, nausea and other conditions.

    The finding is published in the September issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany. Lead author is David Marks, a professor of plant biology in the College of Biological Sciences.

    The study revealed that the genes are active in tiny hairs covering the flowers of Cannabis plants. In marijuana, the hairs accumulate high amounts of THC, whereas in hemp the hairs have little. Hemp and marijuana are difficult to distinguish apart from differences in THC.

    With the genes identified, finding a way to silence them—and thus produce a drug-free plant — comes a step closer to reality. Another desirable step is to make drug-free plants visually recognizable. Since the hairs can be seen with a magnifying glass, this could be accomplished by engineering a hairless Cannabis plant.

    The researchers are currently using the methods of the latest study to identify genes that lead to hair growth in hopes of silencing them.

    "We are beginning to understand which genes control hair growth in other plants, and the resources created in our study will allow us to look for similar genes in Cannabis sativa," said Marks.

    "Cannabis genetics can contribute to better agriculture, medicine, and drug enforcement," said George Weiblen, an associate professor of plant biology and a co-author of the study.

    As with Dobermans and Dachshunds, marijuana and hemp are different breeds of the same species (Cannabis sativa), but marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, which is a source of industrial fiber and nutritious oil.

    Hemp was raised for its fiber — which is similar to cotton but more durable — in the United States until legislation outlawed all Cannabis plants because they contain THC. Today, marijuana contains as much as 25 percent THC, whereas hemp plants contain less than 0.3 percent.

    Hemp was once a popular crop in the upper Midwest because it tolerates a cool climate and marginal soils that won't support other crops but, after drug legislation, hemp fiber was replaced by plastic and other alternatives. Recent popular demand for hemp products has led some states to consider the economic and environmental benefits of hemp. North Dakota legislation aims to reintroduce it as a crop, and Minnesota is considering similar legislation. At the same time, California and other states permit the medicinal use of marijuana.

    "I can't think of a plant so regarded as a menace by some and a miracle by others," says Weiblen, who is one of the few researchers in the United States permitted to study Cannabis genetics. In 2006, Weiblen and colleagues developed a DNA "fingerprinting" technique capable of distinguishing among Cannabis plants in criminal investigations.

    Patty Mattern
    September 15, 2009
    Eureka Alert

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  1. Desertfox
    Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC


    In one of the few scientific developments likely to interest both the Governor of North Dakota and Method Man, scientists at the University of Minnesota have identified the genes in cannabis that allow the plant to produce THC. Finding the genes opens the path to either create drug-free hemp plants for industrial purposes, or to develop plants with much higher concentrations of the psychotropic chemical.
    Publishing in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the researchers note that they specifically targeted the genes responsible for generating the drug-filled hairs highlighted in many a High Times photo spread. By impairing or encouraging the growth of those hairs, scientists could gain precise control over the level of THC in the crop.
    This development has important consequences for both the medicinal and industrial use of hemp.
    On the industrial side, states like North Dakota have been looking to change state law to allow them to raise hemp as a cash crop, for oil and rope production. The ability to create hemp that doesn't contain any banned substances would allow Dakotans to sow the crop without any changes in the law.
    On the opposite end of the spectrum, precise control of the doses of THC found in pot could greatly enhance the medicinal marijuana industry. Currently, dosage is controlled through haphazard breeding and selection, not precise measurements as with most other medications.
    It should also be noted that THC is not the only psychoactive compound found in marijuana, so more research is needed before the University of Minnesota scientists can completely control the potency of their crops.
    By Stuart Fox Posted 09.15.2009 at 1:03 pm

    Anyone with access to the Journal of Experimental Botany think they can find the article for me?

    Can a mod merge the thread with the link chillinwill posted below?
  2. chillinwill
  3. EscapeDummy
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    Swim doesn't know THAT much about growing, but 'haphazard' is certainly NOT the adjective he'd use to describe marijuana growing.
  4. Jiggles
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    So does this mean that we can now start engineering other plants that will create THC?!
  5. ninjaned
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    can we all just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful a peach tree that got you high would be?
  6. Desertfox
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    Not until the genes for all the other cannabinoids in marijuana are found can we make other plants that are anywhere near the level of weed in regards to ability to get a human high. THC just by itself just ain't the same, ask anyone who has taken Marinol or Sativex
  7. Mickeld
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    in nature marijuana has a certain amount of THC. Plants with much higher concentrations of THC may or may not be dangerous. For example, because we cloned a sheep we know exactly how it will grow, act, behave, etc etc etc? Certainly not! The clone is MUCH like its parent, but science is unable to control free will! What I mean by free will is this- if you tell a marijuana plant it must contain 60% THC will it for 100% CERTAIN have that much? Who says it may not have 80%? Who is going to wish to test the THC content of EVERY plant EVERY time?
  8. Bajeda
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    Compared to the level of precision required for pharmaceutical preparations it is.
  9. EscapeDummy
    Re: Scientists Find The Gene That Produces THC

    Haha, very true. I feel silly for that statement, should have stopped to think a bit more!
  10. Potter
    I'm sorry, I thought this was the "THC producing oranges" parody article... I have a feeling that cookie was playing a mean trick on me.

  11. Terrapinzflyer
    ^^ What aspect of this is a "load of crap"? While the original article was a press release from the University, the paper is indeed published in the stated journal, and the lead author has quite a few papers published and seems heavily referenced in his field.
  12. LordeV
    Thank goodness. Although discovering the genetic and metabolic pathway for the production of THC in C. sativa is a laudable effort, the phony researchers' objectives are completely misguided. Engineering a C. sativa plant to not produce THC in order to comply to unfair legislation and brutal drug policy? What a waste of money and mind that would be.
  13. Killa Weigha
    Yeah, and keep those fuckin zeros away from swims virgin sensi girls, too. Another misguided GM experiment which has no point and high negative unintended consequence potential (for medical growers anyway).
  14. Terrapinzflyer
    ^^ I'd actually disagree- as it is becoming increasingly clear that CBD is far more important then THC for medical purposes.

    And identifying the genes that produce THC can be used to increase as well as decrease THC production in the plants.
  15. Killa Weigha
    ^^Was referring to pollination. Maybe you have a point but I'm pretty happy with the results of natural breeding programs up to this point.
  16. Terrapinzflyer
    ^^ Indeed. I am not a fan of Genetic Engineering- but the science behind the genetics is a step forward, and having the genes mapped, and an available genetic test of strains could take years off of a normal selective breeding project.
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