Metabolomics characterization of clinically used cannabis strains
Cannabis strains vary significantly in their cannabinoid concentrations. Therefore, analyzing the chemical content of Cannabis plants is of major importance considering that the concentrations of various cannabinoids and their interplay determine medicinal effects and adverse side effects.
Chemical composition analyses of Cannabis plants currently focus on several major cannabinoid species, including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and in some recent studies also cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG), while other compounds in Cannabis which may be important for its therapeutic effects have been neglected. For example, it has been shown that terpenoids, naturally occurring organic chemicals similar to terpenes, are other key components of Cannabis activity and make the plant’s extract more potent than synthetic cannabinoids (Russo, 2011). In the case of antitumor effects and other medicinal properties, most studies focus only on THC and CBD effects, while various cannabinoids and other compounds in Cannabis have been poorly studied regarding their therapeutic potential effects.
In collaboration with a cancer metabolism expert, Professor Tomer Shlomi from the Technion, we established the novel ability to analyze the metabolomics and the specific chemical composition of many types of Cannabis plants. We utilize state-of-the-art mass-spectrometry, coupled with liquid chromatography (LC-MS), to comprehensively profile the cannabinoid composition for a variety of Cannabis strains which are currently being used clinically in Israel and other countries. This enables us the ability to quantify most of the cannabinoid species in Cannabis plants, which, to date, are estimated to reach ~120 compounds (Massi et al., 2013; Radwan et al., 2015; Radwan et al., 2009). Furthermore, using GC-MS (gas chromatography) we are also profiling the terpene and flavonoid compositions of each Cannabis species. Using our Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE) System and preparative high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), we are able to purify single phytocannabinoids and create ‘suspect profiles’ for examination in our studies.
The combined facilities, equipment, and group expertise enables us to analyze the clinical effects of specific Cannabis compositions and their ratios. Moreover, to date, no method has been established to identify all the cannabinoids and their specific ratios: this places our lab in a unique position that attracts many collaborators.