Next-Generation Sequencing Pipeline

fullsize1715.ashxMedicinal Genomics offers a diverse portfolio of high quality, rapid next-generation sequencing services.  Using the most advanced DNA sequencing tools, billions of DNA molecules can be sequenced in parallel for comprehensive genetic classification of cannabis strains.  Our founders played a key role in the Human Genome project and have tremendous experience running and managing DNA sequencing operations.  Our sequencing pipeline utilizes Illumina’s state of the art Next- Generation sequencing technology to generate high quality sequence data in rapid fashion.  We have a team of highly experienced scientists and bioinformaticians overseeing all of our sequencing projects.  All sequence data from our work is analyzed with ZiPhyr®, our proprietary bioinformatics system.  Sequencing is one tool that can be used to elucidate the intricacies of the specific chromosome regions and drivers behind the biochemistry of cannabis. Ultimately, the sequencing information will not only be used to “DNA fingerprint” specific strains but also to improve agricultural yield and medicinal quality.

Cannabis Genome

Cannabis is a fascinating plant that produces fiber, edible seed, oil and numerous cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBN.  It is also unique in that no other plants that we know of have the capacity to produce cannabinoids; the genes that encode the enzymes required to produce cannabinoids are  unique to the cannabis genome. The main difference between the potency and medical benefits of the cannabinoids found in marijuana can be attributed to a single enzyme, or a genetically encoded switch, at the last step in the cannabinoid pathway.  This “switch,” which is called the THCA synthase and CBDA synthase enzyme, fold precursor molecules (Cannabigerolic acid) into either THCA or CBDA. Plants that produce high levels of THC express genes that code for hyper active versions of the enzyme THCA synthase, whereas those plants that code for the enzyme CBDA synthase produce more CBD. The sequencing readout below indicates that there are numerous SNPs in the THCA synthase gene, which would be one key driver behind the genetic differences of the cannabis plants.

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Cannabis Sativa vs. Indica

The most accepted way of distinguishing indica versus sativa is by appearance, or what scientists refer to as morphology.  Sativa plants are tall, loosely branched and have long, narrow leaves. They are usually grown outdoors and can reach heights of up to 20 feet.  Indica plants are short, densely branched and have wider leaves. They are better suited for growing indoors.  However, no scientific study has confirmed these differences, and there is some doubt about their accuracy. In fact, history suggests a much simpler difference between indica and sativa.  The original classification of Cannabis indica was made by French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1785.  Lamarck observed that certain marijuana plants from India were intoxicating and could be made into hashish. But traditional hemp crops, which were more common in Europe, had no mind-altering effect.  He came up with the name Cannabis indica to distinguish Indian cannabis from European hemp, which was known at the time as Cannabis sativa. Likewise, Cannabis indica was specifically recognized as a therapeutic in Western medicine during the 1800s.  Scientists that have studied the differences between indica and sativa have come up with a number of theories based on genetics. The prevailing theory focuses on the genetic production of THC and CBD, which is why indica plants have high THC:CBD ratios and sativa plants have high CBD:THC ratios.  Many strains produce varying amounts of both enzymes due to hybridization, or cross breeding, of the gene pools; this explains why some sativas are rich in THC and some indicas are not.

 

 

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