Cannabis Sativa Genome Mapped

Nature News Blog is reporting that last night Medicinal Genomics published the raw DNA sequence of cannabis sativa.

Thus far the company is only posting the raw sequence reads – meaning that the over 131 billion bases of shotgun sequence have not yet undergone the important and arduous process of being assembled into contiguous chunks. For now, the sequence is fragmented into hundreds of thousands of snippets. But Medicinal Genomics founder Kevin McKernan says he estimates the size of the C. sativa genome to be about 400 million bases…

McKernan says he was turned on to the idea of sequencing cannabis by a 2003 publication in Nature Reviews Cancer about the many potential uses – including fighting cancer – of cannabinoids. C. sativa makes about sixty of the compounds. Although THC has gotten the most attention, McKernan hopes his company’s data will help scientists explore a few of the others, and perhaps guide plant breeding programs to generate new Cannabis strains.

….Also appealing to McKernan: the growing medical marijuana market, which he says is swelling by over 50% a year. “It’s going to have to be a fairly regulated market,” he says, “and regulation is going to come through genetics and fingerprinting of which strains are approved.”

This is going to allow scientists, who up til now have had trouble studying marijuana, greater ability to study the plant. (see NPR for more info)

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