DNA Mapping for Safe Cannabis Consumption

by | Nov 21, 2018

Written by Kristina Etter

A freelance writer and journalist based in Colorado, Kristi is a seasoned pro in cannabis industry content creation and reporting. Her career includes two decades of corporate IT roles at major firms like Maytag Appliances, Wells Fargo Financial, and DuPont Pioneer, which provided her with a unique perspective on the intersection of technology and cannabis.

Many people across the United States are turning to the advanced science of DNA mapping to learn of their ancestry or possible health complications. Since the invention of PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com have emerged to provide valuable insights into one’s life including searching for specific genetic markers to detect susceptibility to diseases like breast cancer, lung and liver diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and even macular degeneration or the risk of developing blood clots.

However, one company in Canada is ready to put the power of PCR technology in the palm of your hand – literally. CannabisTech spoke to the creators of Lobo Genetics this week about how certain risks factors might be mapped within consumer DNA, and how their innovation will help physicians and patients take a more informed approach to cannabis consumption.

In fact, Dan Skilleter, Director of Policy & Communications at Lobo Genetics stated, “We are neither pro or anti-cannabis in any way. We are a healthcare technology company with a goal to help people and patients, whether recreational or medical, make smarter, more informed decisions for safer use.”

Understanding PCR

Polymerase chain reaction is considered one of the most significant advances in molecular biology. PCR, the same technology which allows testing of trace DNA samples from crime scenes, is also known as, molecular photocopying. Essentially, PCR technology amplifies or duplicates a DNA segment for genetic analysis.

By applying heat to a segment of DNA, the strand separates into two pieces; a process called denaturing. Then, an enzyme called “Taq Polymerase” creates two new copies of the DNA strand, identical to the original DNA. By repeating this duplication process, the end result is more than one billion exact copies of DNA. By automating the denaturing and synthesis process, researchers learned how to analyze a DNA sample within hours rather than weeks.

Palm-Sized PCR

John Lem, the co-founder of Spartan Biosciences and Lobo Genetics, helped bring on-demand DNA testing systems to medical clinics with a tiny, technological marvel called the Spartan Cube. This four square inch, palm-sized device allows physicians to perform specific DNA tests and receive results in under an hour, rather than days or weeks. By radically shrinking PCR technology,  the Spartan Cube provides accurate, valuable molecular diagnostics -from infectious diseases to diagnostics for drug responses, or food and water safety testing, in less than an hour.

The Cannabis Application

Recognizing the need for a more informed approach to cannabis consumption, Lem, and his team, launched Lobo Genetics, bringing along more than a decade of scientific research and licensed technology from Spartan Biosciences. Adapting the Spartan Cube technology with unique software and a platform designed for commercial cannabis, the Lobo Cube looks for three specific DNA markers, the Lobo Cube analyzes an individual’s predisposed genetic traits which could impact how cannabis effects them. Lem stated to CannabisTech, “Through genetic testing, consumers and patients can gain valuable insights about themselves and make more informed decisions about using cannabis. Our platform enables safer consumption by providing easy-to-understand results in under an hour.”

Further elaborating, Skilleter added, “Taking certain traits into consideration like sex and ethnicity, the Lobo Cube provides a very personalized report.” Continuing, he stated, “We can turn around a report in about 45 minutes because the sample isn’t sent to a centralized lab and put into a queue. Rather, the sample is tested in a decentralized cube and runs the test on the spot.”

Comprehending the Results

So, what exactly can the Lobo Cube tell a consumer? Research of particular DNA mutations shows genetics may determine how some individuals may react to cannabis. The Lobo Cube tests for three specific DNA markers:

  • CYP2C9 Gene – approximately 20% of the population carries the CYP2C9*3 gene mutation which causes two to three times slower metabolization of THC. These individuals may have a stronger, more prolonged reaction to THC than the average consumer. Knowing if a patient or consumer is a carrier of this genetic mutation can help physicians and cannabis advisors make an initial and ongoing recommendation more tailored to the individual and prevent adverse effects from occurring.
  • ATK1 Gene – individuals who are found to be carriers of the AKT1 allele are associated with increased risk of developing acute psychosis. In fact, research suggests individuals with the AKT1 C/C variant could see up to 2 to 7 times greater risk of being diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. As much as 20% of the population may have this gene variant.
  • COMT Gene – with a Val/Val variant of this gene, cannabis consumers may have an increased sensitivity to short-term memory loss. Approximately 20-25% of the population carries this mutation.

Skilleter reminded, “Obviously, there are a number of factors which go into triggering a mental illness, genetics aren’t the only designator, environment and family history are important factors, too.” Ultimately, the test could help determine risk factors in teens and with long-term use, as well as, be a useful diagnostic tool for physicians treating patients with mental illness.

Canada First, Then the World

While Lobo Genetics isn’t your typical startup with more than a decade of licensed technology, the company plans to launch the cannabis-centric Lobo Cube in Canada during the first quarter of 2019. Initially, the plan is to deploy in medical clinics, retail cannabis locations, as well as, provide consumers with an online, mail-in option.

Skilleter also mentioned the company has every intention of entering the global market with the technology, “There’s nothing about our technology which is uniquely germane to Canadian cannabis legalization, and we look forward to entering the global market eventually.”

In an era where consumers are seeking healthier alternatives and taking accountability for their own health and wellness, the Lobo Cube could provide invaluable insights to help ensure safe and responsible consumption. To learn more about Lobo Genetics and how to get the pint-sized device for your dispensary or clinic, visit their website at https://www.lobogene.com/