As more Americans are becoming aware of their DNA profile, ancestry and genomes, DNA testing is now available to assist people in the decision-making of the best and most effective cannabis strains—all based on their own DNA. A Vancouver, Washington-based company xChemistry DNA, LLC has launched CannaGx™, a DNA testing service to identify individual traits and how people respond to cannabinoids.
CULTURE connected with Dr. Charles Sailey, MD, who is medical director at xChemistry, and who is changing the way we think about choosing medical cannabis strains.
No cannabis product affects two people in the same way. Is that what led to the concept of CannaGx™?
It is true that cannabis affects people differently, and a person’s genetics are the primary reason behind that. That was one of the main reasons why I created the CannaGx test. Another factor behind the test’s conception is the fact that many people are using cannabis incorrectly to treat medical conditions. Guidance behind which product to use is subjective and mostly anecdotal, coming from a wide array of unverified sources. We wanted to provide objective guidance based on years of clinical research—guidance that actually makes a difference and allows a person to avoid trial-and-error approaches to cannabis use. Today, with so many people on prescription medications, such as opiates, we knew we needed to get this right and provide something useful, to help people transition away from these traditional therapies. In many ways, we are attempting to curb not only the opioid crisis in America, but the impending anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, sleep-aid or any “Big Pharma” crises that are right around the corner.
Tell us about the pathways into the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an endogenous system within living organisms that is comprised of various receptors, receptor activators (ligands), and various enzymes. These receptors respond to internal as well as external activation by various cannabinoid molecules. The CB1 and CB2 receptors, encoded by the genes CNR1 (6q14-q15) and CNR2 (1p35-p36.1), respectively. They key components of the ECS can be found within almost every major system of the body, including the brain, gastrointestinal system, muscle, and other tissues, in addition to the interplay between cannabinoid receptors, terpenes and their receptors/enzymes. These endocannabinoids have been shown to have medicinal effects on the body, maintaining homeostasis. We have identified several receptors/enzymes involved either directly or indirectly in cannabinoid and terpene pathways, and suspect that hundreds more are also involved.
Do you think CannaGx™ can help ease qualms about those who are unsure about medical cannabis?
Yes, that is definitely an audience that can take full advantage of the test. When people who have never used cannabis before, or those who do not have years of experience to fall back on, they are often overwhelmed by options or by the expense of testing products based solely on their budtenders’ recommendations. Again, we are providing individualized recommendations for each and every person who takes the test, and directing them towards types of products and very specific strains so they can avoid unnecessary side effects. Our goal is for people to take the right product, the first time. Cannabis has proven to be a useful and safe treatment for so many disorders, and it can be confusing and intimidating for people newly exposed to it.
Will this lead to a better knowledge of drug interactions?
Our research has expanded the field of cannabis use from a medical perspective. As we continue to research it, we are finding that there are some cannabis-prescription interactions that are worth noting (we provide information like this in our customized report). Our test provides insight into 40 plus genetic markers of each person, which is more than twice the markers used by the most popular DNA/genetic tests on the market. As a result, our tests provide our customers with an easy to read guide that focuses on the benefits of cannabis products and ensures they are aware of the hazards. In addition to those interactions, we are also diving more deeply into the standard prescription drug-drug interactions and a science called pharmacogenetics (PGx), which is the study of how the body metabolizes various drugs. Our research team actually has over 30 combined years of experience in this specific field. PGx is the basis behind naming our test CannaGx, because our test is a direct extension of that science, but specifically geared towards cannabis, so we thought the name was well suited.