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The Cannabis Genome Is Sequenced

August 22nd, 2011 by Cliffprf Mintz

 A Massachusetts start up company called Medicinal Genomics announced late last week that it had sequenced the cannabis genome. Kevin McKernan the head of Medicinal Genomics and former leader of Life Technologies Corp Ion Torrent DNA-sequence program decided to undertake the project after he read a paper in Nature describing the possible tumor shrinking effects of marijuana. 

The project, which cost about $200,000, may lead to the development of treatments for cancer, pain and inflammatory diseases said McKernan. He is making the making the data public using Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)’s EC2 cloud- computing system. McKernan called the work a “draft assembly” and has yet to publish the data in a peer reviewed journal.

 While sequencing the cannabis genome is not a novel feat, McKernan said his company’s goal is to allow researchers to find ways to maximize the cannabis plant’s therapeutic benefits and minimize its psychoactive effects. Cannabinoids, a class of chemicals that includes tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are the main psychoactive substance in marijuana. Another compound called cannabidiol, or CBD, has shown promise in shrinking tumors in rats without the psychoactive effects, McKernan said. 

Companies including England-based GW Pharmaceuticals have used THC and CBD to create cannabis-based medicines like Sativex; indicated for muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis. McKernan contends that the sequence data may help to modify the cannabinoid pathways in the plant or introduce the pathways into other hosts to optimize biological production. “It may be possible through genome directed breeding to attenuate the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while enhancing the medicinal aspects” he said. 

Like it or not, marijuana has a variety of outstanding medicinal properties that can help patients suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses. The politicization of the drug and the impact of its legalization on the US law enforcement and prison systems have prevented the use of marijuana as a bonafide therapeutic agent.  It is troubling to think that highly addictive pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone/paracetamol are legal but marijuana is not.

 Until next time...

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!

 

 
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