Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario have discovered how to manufacture two pain-relieving molecules in cannabis that are said to be 30 times stronger than aspirin.
Using a combination of biochemistry and genomics, researchers were able to determine how cannabis makes the molecules cannflavin A and cannflavin B. Known as “flavonoids,” cannflavins A and B were first discovered in 1985, when research verified their anti-inflammatory benefits. Cannflavin C was discovered in 2008.
“There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids,” said Prof. Tariq Akhtar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and co-author of the study, said. “These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”
Using the genomic information, the researchers used biochemistry to verify which cannabis genes were required to create cannflavins A and B. The findings provide the opportunity to create natural health products using the cannflavins as an alternative to opioids, which work by blocking the brain’s pain receptors. The cannflavins would target pain by reducing inflammation.
“The problem with these molecules is they are present in cannabis at such low levels, it’s not feasible to try to engineer the cannabis plant to create more of these substances,” Steven Rothstein, co-author of the study, said. “We are now working to develop a biological system to create these molecules, which would give us the opportunity to engineer large quantities.”
The research team has partnered with Anahit International Corp., a Toronto-based company with a licensed patent from the University of Guelph to biosynthesize the cannflavins outside of the cannabis plant. Anahit plans to commercialize the application of the cannflavins with products such as creams, pills, sports drinks, skin patches and more.