Cannabis Genomics

cannabis genomics
Written by Yahav Blaicher

Development, marketing and research sectors in the medical cannabis industry are extremely focused on THC and CBD. Despite this other cannabinoids and terpenes are beginning to arouse great interest. When someone is searching in enormous cannabis-related product ranges he may find just THC and CBD entities. They may even find terpene related products that are flourishing these days. THC content has even been the focus in cannabis breeding in recent years. The industry is now moving in a different direction as people ask for more balanced CBD-heavy varieties. 

Although there are still a lot of unknowns in THC and CBD, we are also beginning to study terpene use. The future is calling us with hundreds of active cannabinoids and terpenes that will one day become isolates in a future range of new products. The Israeli Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), who for the last 2 years have established and expanded the cannabis seed bank, should introduce different traits in the next few years. These new plants will introduce things that today recreational related breeding companies doesn’t highlight in their programs.

The inheritance of traits in the cannabis plant is similar to genetic principles common to all others in the plant kingdom. Humans always have known that genetic properties passed, but they were not sure how, because the molecular mechanism was a mystery. Modern molecular genetics have helped determine gene-specific processes such as regulation of biochemical pathways and gene expression patterns.

Plant breeding has the same principles in wheat, corn, soy, tomato, and cannabis. Obviously, it is important to have a deep acquaintance with the physiology, specific characteristics and agricultural aspects of each plant species. One breeding program might search for stress response characters while another may be interested in a biochemical pathway that leads to a final metabolic product, a metabolite such as CBN or other cannabinoids.

Molecular methods have resulted in the ability to deactivate some genes and deliberately introduce other genes. Like classical genetics, genomics has its own gears to view the genomes of organisms. These include relatively popular gene expression assays that take a global view of the genome, where all genes can be analyzed simultaneously. Genomics also depend on methods to wrinkle sequence data and exactly determine the position of genes on chromosomes, which can help to determine the structural architecture of a genome.

As anyone who has grown cannabis knows, enzymes involved in the synthesis of distinct terpenes and cannabinoids are highly expressed during the flowering stage of growth. Female cannabis plants produce different amounts and types of metabolites, suggesting varying enzymatic control activated in the pathway of those products, compared to the metabolites found in the male cannabis flowering cycle. Cannabis genomics give us full characteristic view which help us in the breeding program to enhance a single cannabinoid or another metabolite in the desired variety that we want to bring for cultivation.

For decades plant secondary metabolism has been widely researched. Nevertheless, people within our field didn’t have the opportunity to break the glass ceiling of public interest triggered funds. The immense medical cannabis industry and awareness open an enormous world of possibilities to expand our use of molecules produced by the plant’s natural laboratory.

About the author

Yahav Blaicher

Co-Founder Herbal Tune - R&D Formulation Independent
Consultant - Medical Cannabis Ph.D. Fellowship at A.R.O.

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