Israeli researchers use modified plant virus to grow ‘enhanced’ cannabis

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Israeli researchers have used advanced technology to cultivate an improved cannabis strain that contains higher levels of THC and CBG, the main active constituents of cannabis, opening up new possibilities for the medical and recreational industries.

As part of work at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researchers have successfully created and grown a cannabis plant containing nearly 17% THC and 25% CBG.

The lab-grown strain also had a 20-30% higher presence of terpenes, which are responsible for smelling and tasting cannabis as well as modulating the effects of cannabis.

The goal of the study, according to a statement released by the university, was to develop a mechanism that would allow researchers to intervene in the biochemical pathways of the Cannabis plant and alter the levels of active substances that she produces.

Researchers were ultimately able to increase or decrease levels of specific substances by manipulating a plant virus and reorienting it. Instead of harming the plant, the researchers created a version of the virus capable of affecting the genes of the cannabis plant that influence the production of its active substances.

“This represents an innovative use of these tools, which were built using synthetic biology tools,” said Professor Alexander Vainstein, who led the project.

Manipulating a cannabis plant and affecting the levels of its active components or their proportions has never been done before, the university noted, opening up new possibilities for the medical industry.

“The results of this study will be valuable both for industry, in order to increase the yield of active substances, and for medical research, in order to cultivate and develop new strains for users of medical cannabis,” said M. Vainstein, adding that further experiments will be conducted with the modified plant and the information will be made available to the cannabis industry in the coming months.

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