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Biotech Medicine

Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC 159

Posted by timothy
from the really-great-bread-man dept.
meghan elizabeth writes How do you get weed without the weed? By genetically engineering yeast to produce THC, of course. Once theorized in a stoner magazine column more than a decade ago, a biotech startup working in Ireland is actively trying to transplant the genetic information that codes for both THC and another cannabinoid called CBD into yeast so that "marijuana" can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.
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Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC

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  • Holy grey area! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So let's say I start a company that uses GMO THC yeast to make bread dough. The dough does not contain any THC; just the yeast that can create it. I sell this bread dough in your supermarket's freezer section as unrisen, unbaked loaves.

    You purchase the bread dough, take it home, thaw it out, let it rise overnight. (Or, for an hour or two in a warm oven.) It happily produced CO2 and THC, the bread rises, you then bake it. You then can make some 'fun' sandwiches. Is my business legal?
    • Re:Holy grey area! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2014 @11:36AM (#47438033)

      If it's legal it won't be for long. Two points:

      1) Most likely the yeast bodies will have trace amounts of THC.
      2) Look at what happened with Psilocybin, the spores of the mushrooms contain no Psilocybin however the mushrooms do. You used to be able to order the spores legally because there were no psychoactive chemicals however they are now also on the DEA schedule.

      So .. no.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe so, but it's perhaps another step in the direction of making the prohibition unenforceable. Such technological advances coupled with a changing public perception and political changes (California, Colorado, Portugal, the Netherlands and increasing de facto legality in more and more places) are increasing momentum against the "war on drugs". I hope to live to see the day when the current prohibition will be held in the same regard as the previous one. For now I take comfort in the realisation that puri

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The yeast is just a cover. Once they get it all sorted out, they switch to selling kits for changing human cells to produce THC directly. This also avoids the whole smoking step, which is probably more unhealthy than the THC itself.
        (Probably easier to just modify gut bacteria instead of human cells. I can already see interesting airport procedures...)

      • Shroom spores are legal in canada. They sell kits at some herbal stores I know.

        http://www.magicmushroomkit.ca... [magicmushroomkit.ca]

      • by LanMan04 (790429)

        You used to be able to order the spores legally because there were no psychoactive chemicals however they are now also on the DEA schedule.

        Nope!

        Wikipedia:

        "In the United States, possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms is illegal because they contain the Schedule I drugs psilocin and psilocybin. Spores, however, which do not contain psychoactive chemicals, are only explicitly illegal in Georgia, Idaho, and California.[17] In the rest of the country, it is not illegal to just sell the spores, but selling them with the purpose of producing hallucinogenic mushrooms is illegal.[18][19]"

    • Re:Holy grey area! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alien7 (310889) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @11:36AM (#47438037)

      Provided you make a warning against doing just that it's okay. During alcohol prohibition breweries used to sell malt extract with a warning that went something like "don't add water and yeast and leave in a dark room for 3 weeks, it will make alcohol and that's illegal!"

    • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @01:11PM (#47438455)
      So, in other words, what you're saying is that bread bakes you?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, but only in soviet Russia

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      It may not be as grey as you think.

      Example: Buying spores for psilocybin mushrooms could well be illegal, as it shows 'conspiracy to commit', which is illegal in its own right... The spores contain noting, but there is no other use for them but to create illegal substances so its really hard to make up an excuse.. This is no difference than your business proposal.

      I also think in some US states ( and countries ) possession of the spores was declared illegal outright....

    • by Justpin (2974855)
      Considering you can by raw poppy seeds which will grow into opium gum poppies and various other seeds which are sold as bird feed. I don't ultimately see much of a problem with it. OTOH people buying hydrogen peroxide and aluminium powder for completely legitimate reasons have been subject to middle of the night armed police raids to their homes which caused one of them to emigrate to Canada.
      • Considering you can by raw poppy seeds which will grow into opium gum poppies and various other seeds which are sold as bird feed.

        Provided you don't know that _all_ poppies are opium poppies, then it's legal to buy the seeds and grow the flowers.
        Of course now that you know ...

        • Provided you don't know that _all_ poppies are opium poppies, then it's legal to buy the seeds and grow the flowers. Of course now that you know ...

          GP might not "know" that because it's false.

          Only Papaver somniferum are opium poppies. The common red 'Flanders' poppy aka the Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is not an opium poppy, nor are a number of others like the California poppy that are not even of the genus Papaver.

          Poppy [wikipedia.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      With only THC and none of the other cannabinoids all you are just going to get is very anxious and very paranoid and I doubt anybody wants that. We discover something new about the endocannabinoid system almost every day. If you expose yourselves to chronic high levels of THC alone you are going to find some of those receptors downregulated retarding the action of GABA. Cannabidiol (CBD) is essential, it is a weak cannabinoid receptor antagonist/agonist the role depends on dose concentration and is highly a

    • by Nyder (754090)

      So let's say I start a company that uses GMO THC yeast to make bread dough. The dough does not contain any THC; just the yeast that can create it. I sell this bread dough in your supermarket's freezer section as unrisen, unbaked loaves.

      You purchase the bread dough, take it home, thaw it out, let it rise overnight. (Or, for an hour or two in a warm oven.) It happily produced CO2 and THC, the bread rises, you then bake it. You then can make some 'fun' sandwiches. Is my business legal?

      As long as you probably have the proper license here in Washington state, yes, it's legal. May not even need a license because you aren't growing or harvesting Marijuana.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Just take the GMO yeast to Montana and let it go in a barley field. THC will be in all the nation's beer shortly thereafter and impossible to remove.
    • by Skylinux (942824)

      The dough does not contain any THC; just the yeast that can create it.
      Is my business legal?

      It used to be legal to purchase cannabis seeds in Germany because they do not contain THC. As far as I know, it is still like this in the UK and Spain.

      Austria is also very funny when it comes to the "evil plant". One may purchase cannabis clones and keep them at home. However, flowering them is not legal.

      • by JakeBurn (2731457)

        The seeds do contain thc. Not only do pot plant seeds contain thc but hemp plants contain it. For hemp it may be less than 1 part per million but its enough for certain governments to make them both illegal.

  • "Biohackers" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dugancent (2616577) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @11:30AM (#47438023)

    In my lab, we call them scientists (or chemist, biologist, etc).

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      But that doesn't catch anyone's attention. Its all about marketing and ad revenue, ya know.

      Really, even the content isn't relevant thesed ays as its all about how many hits you can get to your page

  • Just sayin...

  • Cookie dough (Score:1, Interesting)

    by roman_mir (125474)

    Yeast with THC sounds like a perfect combination, get high while eating something baked and it could be any bread, a dope bagel, a funny muffin, a nostalgic croissant, the branding possibilities are endless!

    • If you eat THC it will mostly just pass threw your system.

      You generally want to put it into an oil solution first, so it can cross your gut boundary.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        THC is also nicely alcohol soluble. The perfect yeast for making beer.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          you are almost right. THC solubility in ethanol drop exponentially relative to the concentration of h2o. It is soluble in anhydrous ethanol, insoluble in beer ! However you can suspend THC in water pretty much like the oil in dressing. It is caused by the vegetable fats from all the materials going in your batch and the natural stirring propelled by the rising co2 bubbles.

          The resulting beer*1 will taste like a really skunky version of a fresh hops 90 minutes IPA, the IBU*2 will probably be above 120. The

    • by maliqua (1316471)

      you don't put yeast in cookies

      • by HiThere (15173)

        Not in most cookies, but there ARE cookies that use a yeast dough. The problem is the yeast eats most of the sugar, so they aren't very sweet. (Maybe you could call them biscuits?)

  • Whoa (Score:4, Informative)

    by SpankiMonki (3493987) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @11:50AM (#47438099)
    Dude, we are totally gonna get baked.
  • by retroworks (652802) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @11:56AM (#47438119) Homepage Journal

    They better act fast if they want to skirt the law with yeast, while there's still a law to break. In USA, Pot will be legal nationwide by 2018

    At least that's been my bet. According to the LA Times today, the DEA in Washington is showing "fatigue" at enforcing it and the White House is ready to give up on the "war on pot". http://www.latimes.com/nation/... [latimes.com]

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday July 12, 2014 @12:27PM (#47438251) Homepage Journal

      They better act fast if they want to skirt the law with yeast, while there's still a law to break.

      It's still a good idea if you want pure chemicals - yeast can produce chemicals faster (to both grow and purify) than plants. Companies like the one Gov. Johnson [benswann.com] is heading up would probably be very interested as a supply source for their refined products.

      The trick is medicinal cannabis has something like 250 active compounds. A few years ago everybody assumed that it was only THC that did anything (marinol, for instance). Now they know that CBD is the most active medicinally and Johnson is now talking about CBG as well. There's still more unknown about the others than there is known, so focusing on just a couple pure chemicals might miss out on benefits. Human bodies do a lot of signalling with various cannabinoids and here's this one plant that happens to also grow most of them. It should be a biotech bonanza, except for the crapitalistic reasons politicians try to keep it off the market.

      But, um, yeah, get high on THC beer if you want. It would actually probably be a net-benefit for society since people will be satisfied with being less drunk. As a user of the road monopoly, I'd strongly support THC beer on the market.

      • Sure, medicinal cannibas may have 250 active compounds, but how many of those - individually or in combination - are necessary to treat 95% of patients?

        If we can identify the ones needed to treat the vast majority of patients and synthesize them or find a bio-factory (e.g. yeast) that we can control much better than the traditional source (the plant), we can deliver drugs that are more pure and more consistent than your average joint or brownie, yet still do the job for almost all patients.

        If I get cancer a

        • Weed doesn't treat cancer it's mainly used to treat low appetite that comes with the drugs that do treat cancer. It also "thins the blood" (as does aspirin), so best to stay away from it before surgery.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      I doubt it will be fully legal by 2018. At the state level, I think it's likely more states will decriminalize or even fully legalize, but not all of them. I'll put a guess at: by 2018, it will be fully legal in 15 states, decriminalized in 15, and still criminal to possess in 20 states.

      At the federal level, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs [wikipedia.org] would complicate legalization efforts, since the Treaty requires signatories to ban marijuana. And the U.S. doesn't want to undermine this treaty, because it uses

    • by GNious (953874)

      They better act fast if they want to skirt the law with yeast, while there's still a law to break. In USA, Pot will be legal nationwide by 2018

      At least that's been my bet. According to the LA Times today, the DEA in Washington is showing "fatigue" at enforcing it and the White House is ready to give up on the "war on pot". http://www.latimes.com/nation/... [latimes.com]

      It took 148 years for the states to agree slavery was bad, you think they'll agree on pot being good in less than a decade?

      • It did not take 150yrs to end the alcohol prohibition experiment and it ended the same way as marijuana prohibition is ending now, the states lead the reversal. The problem for all nations at the federal level is international treaties. Weed was originally demonised by the US for industrial purposes, if the new wonder thread nylon was to succeed economically, hemp production needed to be restrained. People bought the propaganda because it was marketed as a "mexican problem" in the same way Germany marketed
        • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic.gmail@com> on Sunday July 13, 2014 @09:54AM (#47442401)

          Minor point - IIRC weed was targeted by William Randolph Hearst back in the 20s. Hearst owned the largest newspaper chain in the US, and had bought the global rights to the new method for making paper out of wood. His goal was to eliminate hemp as a fiber source for paper. He set up a huge tree plantation in Guyana (or thereabouts) and began a major attack on weed. He began a publicity campaign in his papers about the evils of weed, funded the making of "Reefer Madness", and lobbied and bribed congresscritters to include weed in the Volstead Act as a dangerous drug.

          At that time hemp, which is a slightly different variety of cannabis, was a major source of quality fiber for rope as well as paper (and still better than any other vegetable fiber AFAIK). The hemp growing industry was destroyed. But even today, cannabis is a major 'weed' throughout the midwest, and is a primary source of seeds for birds.

          Once when motorcycling around the wilds of Illinois we came upon a large tract - probably 40 acres - of hemp, complete with a set of beehives. I have no idea if this was just fallow land or being grown on purpose. We came back with a car and collected one 14 foot plant for a Christmas tree in the dorm. The branches were two feet apart. Smoking was tried, it was pretty much smoking a rope.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Drug dealers still have lots of cash to pay off politicians to keep drugs illegal and their profits flowing. Expect it to take a while longer than that. The Pharmaceuticals will also want it banned until they can patent it. That THC CBD (plus other elements) combination has such wide ranging health impact because it likely triggers the placebo affect, not in the way people expect but via a direct chemical triggering of that affect, forcing the body to switch from stressed starvation mode to high metabolic

  • How long until they make yeast illegal?

    I'm really looking forward to a prison sentence for trying to make my own bread

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @12:34PM (#47438293)

    Actually, I've been calling for someone to graft the THC-production complex into kudzu. That way, either we get government help to wipe it out, or the government finally gives up; either way, kudzu becomes useful for something.

    Of course, I don't have much deep knowledge about GM or plant biology, so coming up with this idea was about on a par with saying "somebody ought to build a flying car". Here's hoping that the task these folks are tackling turns out more tractable than that one.

    • I thought you guys had rent-a-goat companies for the kudzu... are they not keeping up?
    • If we ever learn to design new genes and proteins quickly, there are a bunch of starter projects:

      Give mold the ability to synthesize CBD and THC. It would motivate you to wash your dishes- so you can use a razor blade to scrape off a gooey film of cannabinoids from the slimy ceramic in your sink, puff away, develop the munchies again, refill the sink with dirty dishes, and complete the cycle.

      Insert a couple genes into E Coli that can synthesize cannabinoids in your intestines, so you can get a buzz after ea

    • by mpe (36238)
      Actually, I've been calling for someone to graft the THC-production complex into kudzu. That way, either we get government help to wipe it out, or the government finally gives up; either way, kudzu becomes useful for something.

      Anyway you could call it "superweed".
    • Me too, but my suggestion has always been dandelions. Those little bastards colonize most prairie land in Canada, and the greens are good in salad too though almost nobody eats them.

    • IIRC hops is close enough to cannabis that a hops plant can be grafted to a marijuana root, and will grow with at least some of the weed ingredients.

  • I'm not a user, but my understanding is that pot is a very hearty plant, easy to grow and cheap to grow. Why invest money, time, and effort in learning to get the THC without it?

    • by ultranova (717540)

      I'm not a user, but my understanding is that pot is a very hearty plant, easy to grow and cheap to grow. Why invest money, time, and effort in learning to get the THC without it?

      Because yeast is still easier, and it would be to everyone's advantage if at least some of the alcohol producers switched to pot. Except the "thank God for dead soldiers" crowd, of course, since they're never happy as long as someone else might be.

  • Or, you could just go to the store and buy some.
     
    Guy from Seattle

  • Imagine you could use yeast to make alcohol!
    • by Khyber (864651)

      Even better. Yeast producing both THC and alcohol. Instant cannabeer without the other brewing steps!

      THCquila? :)

  • Great, i like making bread.. Will i now have to get a license to buy yeast ?

    When you outlaw yeast.. only outlaws will eat sandwiches..

    There is also a female joke in there too, but ill leave that one alone.

    • Industrial hemp is banned because of the drug ban despite the fact it is not the smoking kind of hemp. Under that logic, they have ban all yeast because 1 species can make you high.

      • George Washington decreed every landowner put aside up to five acres for hemp production to feed the new navy's hunger for rope. The drug ban arose from the fact hemp was standing in the way of profits from the new wonder thread Nylon (NY + LONdon), yet to this day nylon rope is avoided by mariners because of it's brutal effect on waterlogged hands (feels like razor wire).
        • Actually I think the ban predated Nylon - it was Hearst's plan to force papermakers to use his licensed process for making paper out of wood, instead of hemp. He demonized in his newspapers, funded "Reefer Madness" and bribed Congress to include cannabis in the Volstead Act.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @01:20PM (#47438483)

    For over 20 years it has been discussed that it might be possible to get the genes into your lawn's Bermuda grass.

    Then your gardener could really rake in the grass for real dough.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      I trust that my Bermuda grass will just eat up the genes and throw them down into another dimension, just like it did with the countless airplanes and ships back in the day. And don't give me any of that methane and buoyancy theory.
  • Dude, don't bogart the bread.

  • Good luck since THC isn't a protein. You need to encode the machine.
  • Growers aren't Showers. And these guys think advertising the fact they can make the active ingredient in a test tube isn't going to attract the Law? Good luck with that.
  • a biotech startup working in Ireland... bla bla bla... so that new medicinal (and, perhaps recreational) "marijuana" can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.

    If they are working with yeast in Ireland their goal is to make beer that has alcohol THC and CBD.

  • A silver lining to a yeast infection!
  • I like stories like this because they make my uid relevant again. Oh to be 19 and picking a random uid while stoned. Too bad you can't change them on a one time basis or something. What a waste of a ~500k UID.

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