Doctor, but keep the marijuana: new CBD source found in Brazil

Brazilian molecular biologist Rodrigo Moura Neto inspects a CBD-containing plant, which can be used to treat epilepsy and chronic pain, in his laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in June 2023 (CARL DE SOUZA)

Brazilian molecular biologist Rodrigo Moura Neto inspects a CBD-containing plant, which can be used to treat epilepsy and chronic pain, in his laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in June 2023 (CARL DE SOUZA)

In a hidden laboratory on a sprawling university campus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian molecular biologist Rodrigo Moura Neto is testing a seemingly ordinary plant with a powerful secret.

The fast-growing houseplant, Trema micrantha blume, is native to the Americas, where it is widespread and often considered a weed.

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But Moura Neto recently discovered that its fruits and flowers contain one of marijuana’s active ingredients: cannabidiol, or CBD, which has shown promise as a treatment for conditions including epilepsy, autism, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Crucially, he also found that it doesn’t contain the herb’s other main ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive substance that gets people high.

This opens up the possibility of an abundant new source of CBD, without the complications of cannabis, which remains illegal in many places.

The discovery has transformed Dr. Moura Neto, an affable, silver-haired 66-year-old into something of an overnight academic star who now has a busy schedule meeting with patent experts and companies eager to tap into the multibillion-dollar CBD market. .

«It was wonderful to find a plant (with CBD but) without THC, because you avoid all the mess around psychoactive substances,» says Moura Neto, who has spent most of the last fifty years researching in this small plant laboratory. Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. University.

«That means the potential is huge,» he tells AFP.

His 10-member team recently won a 500,000 real ($104,000) public grant to expand his project, which will now identify the best methods to extract CBD from ‘Trema’, then study its effectiveness as a substitute for medical marijuana .

– Man Required –

Many of the touted medical uses of CBD are still being researched.

The compound is controversial, including in Brazil, where patients have gone to court to get the right to use it. They often have to import it at eye-watering prices, as growing medical marijuana remains illegal, even though there is legislation before Congress to change that.

Debates aside, the demand for CBD is booming.

The global CBD market last year was estimated at nearly $5 billion. Analysts firm Vantage Market Research projects it will grow to more than $47 billion by 2028, driven primarily by health and wellness use.

The interest in Moura Neto’s research has been «enormous,» says Rosane Silva, the director of his lab, who sits in a corridor bustling with white-coated students and researchers.

“Many companies have called, trying to collaborate” on a possible non-cannabis CBD drug, says Silva, standing next to what she calls the “magic plant”.

A member of the Cannabaceae family – like cannabis – ‘Trema’ can grow into a tree up to 20 meters (66 feet) tall.

Moura Neto says he and the university could explore patenting any innovations they find to extract CBD from its berries and flowers.

But he hastens to add that he will not patent «Trema» itself. He wants scientists from all over the world to be able to research it.

«If I had dreamed of being a billionaire, I wouldn’t have become a professor,» he says.

– From the police to production? –

Moura Neto began studying CBD for an entirely different reason: Trained as a forensic geneticist, he analyzed the DNA of marijuana seized by police to help investigators trace its origin.

When he came across a study identifying CBD in a related plant in Thailand, another member of the Cannabaceae family, he got the idea to test it in ‘Trema’.

He says turning his as yet unpublished discoveries into a market-ready drug will take five to 10 years of research and clinical trials, if possible.

Cannabis, first domesticated in China more than 10,000 years ago, has been cultivated for millennia to refine its medicinal and therapeutic effects.

The CBD in «Trema» may not work as well, or at all, says Moura Neto.

In the meantime, there’s no point in smoking the plant for a high.

«That definitely won’t do anything for you,» she laughs.


#Doctor #marijuana #CBD #source #Brazil
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