The researchers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem successfully increased the level of THC by almost 17% and the level of CBG, often referred to as “the mother of all cannabinoids,” by close to 25%. Now Vainstein and his team were able to increase the ratio of terpenes, which are responsible for maximizing the euphoric effects of cannabis, by 20% to 30%.

The stated goal of their study was to find a way to intervene in the biochemical pathways in the cannabis plant to increase or decrease the production of active substances. The researchers accomplished this by manipulating a plant-based virus that had first been neutralized. In that way, it could not harm the plant. They then manipulated it to express the genes that influence the production of active substances in the cannabis plant.

“This represents an innovative use of these tools, which were constructed using synthetic biology tools,” explained Vainstein. “Next, we developed an innovative technology based on infection with an engineered virus to facilitate chemical reactions that increase the quantities of desired substances. In collaboration with Mariana Bioscience Ltd., we examined the infected plants and found that the levels of the substances in question had indeed risen.” This is the first time that researchers have succeeded in performing such a feat with cannabis plants. 

“These study results will be valuable both to industry, to increase the yield of active substances, and to medical researchers to cultivate and develop new strains for medical cannabis users,” said Vainstein. He added that more extensive experiments with the engineered plant are currently underway and should be available to cannabis industry leaders and medical research in the next few months.

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