Professors from the University of Maine at Farmington have received a large grant to conduct a study set to determine which strains of marijuana are most effective in treating certain illnesses.
Jean Doty, a professor of biology at the university, along with her colleague Terry Morocco, an associate professor of chemistry, became interested in the medical cannabis field after reading articles about local millworkers who were laid off and decided to become medical marijuana caregivers.
“It got us thinking about the potential economic benefits that larger-scale grow operations could offer Maine, but also the very real security concerns this poses for citizens,” Doty said in an email interview with BDN Maine.
The study will focus on which strains of medical grade marijuana would be best in helping specific illnesses and chronic diseases.
“By identifying strains and the genetics that govern them, the profile may help determine what the properties of the plant are, what it is good for and provide more understanding of what it might be used to treat,” Doty explains.
The team’s final goal is to be able to develop gene sequencing tests, implemented in order to determine which strains of medical marijuana are most helpful. The goal is to help the industry to then focus on producing larger amounts of these strains.
The project itself will begin with the analysis of the different chemical profiles and genetic makeup of samples provided by medical marijuana caregivers throughout Maine. From there, the researchers are hoping to be able to develop a scientific model for studying how cannabinoid compounds are produced in the plant itself and why the chemicals are actually helpful in treating certain illnesses and not others.
The professors hope to be able to set a scientific precedent that can be used to create more studies on medical marijuana treatments and further the amount of knowledge scientists have at their disposal regarding cannabis as a medicine. This would, in turn, help patients receive the best form of treatment for their illnesses.
“From this research, we hope to develop a genetic test that can identify chemical profiles at an early growth stage, allowing caregivers to focus on strains that meet the needs of their patients,” Doty said.
The University of Maine at Farmington received a nearly $100,000 grant for the team to be able to conduct this research. About $66,000 was donated to the university by the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, a state collaborative network run by the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and sponsored by the National Institute of Health.
The research team also received another $40,000 grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Funds Small Campus Initiative, which is a foundation that provides support initiatives for scientists looking to undertake innovative research projects at small University of Maine campuses throughout the state. The Initiative focuses on helping fund studies that could contribute to the improvement of Maine’s economy, which Doty and Morocco’s study has the potential to do.
On top of helping the state’s medical marijuana industry and economy, Doty and Morocco have decided to include students in the research process as well. The biomedical research training that the students will receive is in compliance with the state’s necessary technology goals, meaning that they will not only be paid to be a part of the project, but will also gain valuable real world experience.
The strains that the team will be testing will be provided by Integr8, a Maine-based company that currently leads the state in therapeutic use of medical cannabis.
What types of cannabis studies would you like to see? Tell us in the comments.