A small Massachusetts company announced it has successfully sequenced the genome of a marijuana plant, a move that may bring scientists one step closer to understanding the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, including its potential to treat cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Medicinal Genomics published the raw sequence strings on Amazon.com’s EC2 cloud computing system. The findings, which have not yet undergone peer review, found that the DNA sequence of the plant has 84 other compounds that could fight pain or possibly shrink tumors.
Kevin McKernan, the founder and chief executive officer of Medicinal Genomics, told NPR that he has spent most of his career studying tumors, and became interested in marijuana’s healing properties after several friends with cancer asked him about its medicinal benefits. After hearing about a drug called Sativex, a cannabis-derived medication developed by a German pharmaceutical company that treats muscle stiffness, McKernan became more committed to investigating emerging medical research on the plant.
Sativex contains tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, and another cannabinoid called CBD, which reportedly negates some of the psychoactive effects of THC. The drug is now available in the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany and is currently in trials to see if it can successfully treat cancer pain.
However, pot smokers shouldn't rejoice just yet: McKernan, who worked on the Human Genome Project from 1996 to 2000, said CBD has shown promise in shrinking tumors in rats while suppressing THC's mind-altering affects.
“One in three people are going to get cancer, and one in four are going to die with it or from it,” he told Bloomberg News. “So any compound, as preliminary as this may be, that's nontoxic and shows hope there, we should be all over.”
Research suggests that marijuana can be valuable aid in treating multiple ailments, including neuropathic pain, nauseau and glaucoma. The plant is also a known appetite stimulant, making it a valuable resource for individuals suffering from HIV and those undergoing chemotherapy.
Medicinal marijuana is currently legal in 16 states as well as Washington, D.C.
A number of U.S. health organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the Federation of American Scientists support granting patients immediate legal access to marijuana under a doctor's supervision, according to the marijuana reform group NORML.
In an interview with NPR, McKernan said providing access to marijuana's genome is particularly important since many scientists in the U.S. who would like to study it are unable to since they cannot get a license to grow it.
“A lot of people who want to contribute to this field can't, but now that this information is available, a lot of research can get done without growing any plants,” he said.
– Article Originally from International Business Times.