16 novel compounds of cannabis identified

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Researchers from the Smart Sustainable Resources research group, which is linked to the Manresa School of Engineering of the UPC, have characterised 16 novel cannabis compounds that had not been identified so far

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Xavier de las Heras, from the UPC’s Smart Sustainable Resources (SSR-UPC) research group

Researchers from the Smart Sustainable Resources research group at the UPC Campus in Manresa have characterised 16 novel compounds of cannabis that had not been identified so far. The discovery has been published in the journal Planta Medica. Characterising novel compounds of cannabis opens the door to discovering new medicinal uses of the plant’s active ingredients.

Dec 10, 2020

Although cannabis (or marijuana) trade is illegal in many countries, it is one of the best studied plants in the world. Researchers from the Smart Sustainable Resources research group, which is linked to the Manresa School of Engineering (EPSEM) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), have characterised 16 novel cannabis compounds that had not been identified so far by studying a high-potency cannabis plant with a strong psychotropic effect.

In the paper, published in the journal Planta Medica, the researcher Xavier de las Heras, from the UPC’s Smart Sustainable Resources (SSR-UPC) research group, has studied the predominant psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and has identified another one that has a side chain of seven carbon atoms instead of five, that is, two more than THC. This elongated chain is most probably associated with the increased psychoactive effect of the plant studied. Characterising novel compounds of cannabis opens the door to discovering new medical uses of its active ingredients.

These novel compounds have been characterised within the framework of the doctoral thesis Estudi de biomarcadors lipídics en plantes de la conca mediterrània i les seves implicacions geoquímiques en sistemes aquàtics (Study of Lipid Biomarkers in Plants of the Mediterranean Basin and their Geochemical Implications in Aquatic Systems), which has been written by Josep Basas, a student on the UPC’s doctoral programme in Natural Resources and Environment, and supervised by Xavier de las Heras.

The research group also works in other areas, such as biotechnology and the characterisation of organic compounds by using the technique of gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Some molecules found in plants are preserved in recent sediments and become fossilised while retaining most of their original chemical structure. Molecular fossils can be found therefore in sedimentary rocks that are related to the type of vegetation from which they come.

The SSR-UPC research group has been accredited with the Government of Catalonia’s TECNIO network seal, which is awarded to technology centres and university groups that are leaders in industrial research and technology transfer in Catalonia.