Final 12 months, a Canadian examine challenged the idea of weed strains — that means vegetation distinguished by their bodily traits like odor, taste, look, and psychoactive results. The Canadian researchers concluded that the variations amongst strains was so minimal that each one weed strains have been principally the identical plant.
However a new examine from Washington State College and Evio Labs discovered distinct genetic variations amongst 9 strains, completely different sufficient to conclude that no, not all weed vegetation are the identical.
In line with the newest examine, strains can be distinguished by the genes controlling cannabinoid and terpenoid manufacturing, and never simply their “minor cannabinoids” like CBN or THCV, as recommended within the earlier Canadian examine. Cannabinoids equivalent to THC and CBD are answerable for the plant’s medical purposes, whereas terpenes like linalool and myrcene contribute to the plant’s fragrant qualities.
The manufacturing of those two lessons of chemical compounds are linked. The Washington/Evio examine found that the genes controlling cannabinoid manufacturing co-regulate the genes controlling terpenoid manufacturing, and vice versa.
In different phrases, completely different vegetation characteristically produce completely different, however linked, mixtures of cannabinoids and terpenes. The findings point out that pressure identification — as long as it’s executed truthfully and transparently — is an actual factor, and it may assist researchers breed new vegetation for industrial, medical, and business functions.
“I’d argue mixture of genetic/genomic and chemical analyses would be the strongest method for differentiating strains (as we did as a part of the venture that was simply revealed),” Bernd Markus Lange, the examine’s lead creator, wrote to Forbes in an e mail. “This will even be vital for breeding functions, as we’re starting to higher perceive how sequence variation in sure genes correlates with traits such because the chemical composition.”
The brand new findings lend credibility to a small however rising motion of hashish advocates who argue that marijuana vegetation needs to be designated as chemovars somewhat than as strains. “Pressure” is an outdated time period not utilized by botanists, though microbiologists nonetheless use it to explain sure sorts of micro organism and viruses.
Chemovar, a portmanteau of “chemo-” for “chemical” and “-var” from “cultivar,” signifies a hashish plant’s identification primarily based on its chemical profile, somewhat than a cool, edgy identify (e.g. Alaskan Thunderfuck).
How do the genes for, say, THC co-regulate the genes for a terpene like pinene? Most weed scientists have centered on DNA or chemical evaluation to check the plant, however the Washington State College and Evio Labs researchers centered on one other important however typically neglected side of weed genetics: RNA, or ribonucleic acid.
What the heck is RNA? A residing organism’s genes — the organic codes that direct all cell progress and exercise — are contained in its DNA. However to specific these genes from code to motion requires a second organic messenger, RNA, which transmits the data from the DNA to the remainder of the cell.
Consider it like this: DNA acts like a blueprint for a constructing (an organism). Proteins encoded by DNA are just like the wood boards, cement bricks, and wiring used to assemble the constructing.
RNA, then, is basically the workhorse that places all of it collectively, the jack-of-all-trades building employee that may learn the blueprint then lay a constructing’s basis or wire up the constructing’s lighting system by coordinating with or producing the cell’s proteins.
RNA is comparatively bizarre compared to different organic messengers, like genes or hormones. It can actually do every little thing within the cell, from transmitting genetic coding to catalyzing reactions similar to an enzyme, to even self-replicating, similar to DNA can.
So why has RNA’s function in shaping a pressure’s properties eluded weed science for therefore lengthy? As a result of RNA exercise can’t be decided by merely trying on the genes in DNA, the place a lot of the pot genetics analysis has been executed. RNA’s relationship with a cell’s proteins and DNA is extremely advanced, current in a perpetual suggestions loop the place gene expression, protein exercise, and even the organism’s interactions with its exterior setting can all affect RNA exercise.
Scientists have additionally did not plumb deeper into weed’s RNA due to federal restrictions on hashish analysis, notably with “drug-type” hashish that produces important quantities of THC.
“At present, solely THC content material is regulated, however there are many open questions from a regulatory perspective: what are the organic actions of the greater than 90 different cannabinoids which have been recognized?” Lange, the examine’s lead creator, wrote to Forbes.
“Is the entourage impact (interplay of a number of hashish elements in a synergistic method) greater than folklore and are there implications? There are additionally implications for managing the business cultivation of hashish equivalent to pesticide use and greatest practices. We definitely want extra analysis in that space.”
Does this imply that the Banana Kush at your native dispensary is assured to style like banana pudding, or that the Blue Dream clone you got from some sketchy stranger is most undoubtedly Blue Dream? No, it doesn’t.
Whereas no tried-and-true chain-of-custody exists for business (and even medical) weed genetics, this newest examine does point out that there are measurable variations amongst particular person strains, and that these variations are rooted within the pressure’s genetic and chemical profiles.
Nevertheless, cultivation strategies will all the time play a big function in bud high quality, and whereas two clones could also be genetically similar, the best way their RNA responds to their inside and exterior environments may imply the distinction between top-shelf standing or bottom-of-the-barrel shake.
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