Cannabis has been around for a long time and has quite the storied history. Despite this, research into popular plant’s chemical composition and origins is relatively new. While alchemists of the past experimented with processing cannabis into various forms, the capability to reach into the primordial era of cannabis’s emergence into the world has not been available to us—until now. Thanks to cannabis DNA mapping, we’re learning even more about this horticultural wonder.
Mapping Cannabis DNA Leads to New Discoveries
University of Toronto scientists recently finished the first comprehensive chromosome map for sativa strains of cannabis. According to their findings, a millennia-old virus was responsible for mutations in cannabis DNA leading to the emergence of the signature chemical components within cannabis that result in its potent effects, namely THC and CBD.
In fact, this process of viral infections producing new or unique features in plants is relatively common. When viruses form a relationship with their host, they modify the host’s DNA to enable reproduction to easily occur, a process that unfolded with the cannabis plant millions of years ago. This modification caused a reaction in the cannabis plant that led to the production of cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
For some reason, the presence of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant was a trait that led to increased reproduction. When humanity encountered the cannabis plant, guided breeding encouraged greater cannabinoid content, leading eventually to the high-THC strains and distinctive cannabis high that we are familiar with today.
While University of Toronto researcher Tim Hughes and his team have been mapping out the cannabis genome since well before the first draft of the report was published in 2011, it was not until recently that these fascinating discoveries were made known to the public. But that isn’t the only interesting information about cannabis DNA the report uncovered.
The genome map also revealed that genes for THC and CBD are separate. Some scientists believe this implies that a version of cannabis without THC is possible, a product that could be ideal for CBD consumers who aren’t interested in the psychoactive effects that cannabis typically imparts. The definitive discovery that these components can be separated opens the door for greater research into cannabis DNA in the future.
Likewise, the report unveiled the existence of obscure varieties of cannabinoids. Some, like cannabichromene, are virtually unknown to the cannabis research community and could eventually be synthesized to produce new treatments for various diseases. Due to legal limits historically acting as a barrier to cannabis research, much about cannabis and its constituent components has not been explored in official scientific contexts.
However, as this University of Toronto report displays, the research environment surrounding cannabis is changing rapidly. With the full recreational legalization of cannabis, major companies are pouring money and resources into studies to uncover all possible uses of the cannabis plant and the chemicals it produces.
The genome map is likely to be a game-changer for researchers already. Hughes and his team are optimistic that their findings can help other scientists and laboratories in their endeavors to dispel the mysteries of cannabis.