Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as "brewer's yeast," is the magical microbe that helps turn your grape juice into wine, your grain mash into beer and your dough into bread. But now this yeast can make something else: THC and CBD.
A group of researchers have genetically modified brewer's yeast to make it capable of producing THC and CBD. The researchers even argue that they can modified the yeast to make it capable of producing ANY cannabinoid, not just the two major ones that most of us know.
To do this, the scientists transferred a gene sequence that controls metabolic pathways from cannabis plants into yeast. By doing so, the yeast transforms a sugar called galactose into a bunch of chemicals, and those chemicals are then synthesized into cannabigerolic acid (CBGa). CBGa is the so-called "mother cannabinoid," because it can be converted into any cannabinoid. So some forms of yeast will turn the CBGa into THC, while others will turn it into CBD.
The yeast is more important for what it can do for other cannabinoids. The researchers say they only need to modify one gene in the process to make the yeast able to produce rarer cannabinoids besides THC and CBD that we don't know much about. Even when we extract these rarer cannabinoids from marijuana, it's often contaminated with other cannabinoids.
The rarer cannabinoids are what the researchers are after. Using this yeast, scientists will be able to more easily study the effects of these other cannabinoids. Perhaps one of these has some major medical benefit that could become a life-saving medicine for some condition. And this process is possibly cheaper than other methods as well. So this could have major potential for marijuana research.
Once again, yeast saves the day.
(h/t Scientific American)