People consume cannabis for millennia, but scientists are still largely in the dark about the devil's salad. Thanks to new research, we now have the potential answer to one persistent riddle of the science of mining: why do weeds have special chemical compounds that affect humans, but other plants do not have?
I am talking, of course, about THC and CBD, compounds known as cannabinoids, which are found in cannabis and have different effects on people. THC is well known as the main psychoactive component in cannabis (that is, it becomes high), and CBD has recently become fashionable as an ingredient in everything from beverages to cosmetics.
According to a study published in the November issue Genome researchThese two different compounds did not always exist in the plant, which we now call cannabis. According to the study, millions of years ago, the ancient viruses may have colonized the plant's genome and accelerated the evolutionary process that changed its DNA and gave us THC and CBD.
"Squirrels [for THC and CBD] built into this huge mess of viral sequences, ”said Tim Hughes, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study on the phone. "One thing known for these sequences is to facilitate chromosomal rearrangement, and in fact it is a bit dangerous."
According to Hughes, these viruses could accelerate the evolutionary process, which led to the fact that one gene of the enzyme in cannabis mutated into two parts, which ultimately gave us the THC and CBD. “It is easy to imagine that for a long time this process was repeated again and again in this part of the chromosome where these two enzymes are located,” he said.
This change has led to the fact that ancient cannabis was split into chemically different types, and people chosen for plants with desirable characteristics, such as high THC, according to a press release for the study.
It is difficult to say what cannabis is before the ancient viruses helped it develop properties that we are familiar with today, but according to Hughes, some of its closest relatives are harmless plants, such as mulberries and hop plants.
Read more: Canadian researchers talk about access to legal weed
The discovery that ancient viruses are likely to cause people to light some cannabis to relax is a byproduct of the research of Hughes and his colleagues, which is the first complete map of the cannabis genome to be published in academic terms. In February, the Colorado-based Sunrise Genetics unveiled a map of the cannabis genome at the conference, but did not publish an article, stating that it would publish this publication "in less than a year." Hughes and his colleagues published a cannabis genome project in 2011, but it was not detailed enough to reveal the position of genes on the chromosome.
Such maps are needed to improve our impoverished understanding of the cannabis plant. The card of Hughes and his colleagues already pays dividends, besides the discovery of the possible role of viruses in the production of THC and the CBD. According to the researchers, they also identified the gene responsible for producing the third cannabinoid, called CBC.
And there is much to learn about the plant that many people regularly consume, but science has yet to fully understand. According to Hughes, large, according to Hughes, TGC and CBD are used for the cannabis plant itself, suggesting that these compounds developed long before people walked the Earth. “It's just by chance that they have such an impact on people,” said Hughes.
Soon we will see more research that explores the fundamental unknowns of the cannabis science thanks to the emergence of a new wave of research after the legalization of a plant in Canada. Previously, researchers had difficulty mastering the study of plants and the money needed to conduct research. Now it is changing, and in turn this is our understanding of cannabis.
“This plant, and it does these biochemical things, and it’s not as if we don’t have the ability to do everything that we can on other plants, animals and microbes,” said Hughes. “It’s just that nobody did it because we couldn't.”
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