Researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Science have modified a yeast cell to sense the active substances in cannabis and get it to turn red when it does. The result paves the way for more actors to discover new medicinal substances and for a new type of drug test that can be done with a smartphone.
Yeast cells are simple organisms. They do two things in life: eat and propagate. Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences have equipped common baker’s yeast cells with a new function.
The researchers substituted the yeast cell’s sex drive with a sense of taste and smell that allows it to detect cannabinoids, the active substances in cannabis. Going one step further, the researchers made the yeast turn red or glow when it successfully detects cannabinoids. The study has been published in Nature Communications.
“We have made a living sensor out of the yeast cell, which can now sense cannabinoids or molecules that have the same function as cannabinoids even if they look very different than cannabinoids. Among other things, the biosensor can be used to look for new substances with the same properties as cannabinoids. This could democratize medicinal development so that pharmaceutical companies aren’t the only ones equipped to discover new substances,” says Professor Sotirios Kampranis of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, who headed the research.
Turns red when sensing cannabinoids
Humans use hundreds of different GPCRs (G-protein-coupled receptors) to taste and smell. In our noses alone, 400 different GPCRs make it possible for us to detect and distinguish between the smell of roses and freshly baked bread, each of which activates different GPCRs that then signal the brain.
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