Research scientists in Italy have discovered a new cannabis compound called tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) that they say could be as much as 30 times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the most widely known cannabis compounds. The study was published in Nature.
The same group of scientists recently discovered another cannabis compound now known as CBDP, or cannabidiphorol, the cousin of CBD.
According to the report, THCP’s ability to bind to human cannabinoid receptors were assessed and found to have a bond 33 times stronger than that of THC. Researchers were clear to note that the psychoactive effects of THCP have not yet been tested.
“The natural compound was isolated and fully characterized and its stereochemical configuration was assigned by match with the same compound obtained by a stereoselective synthesis,” says the report. “The presence of this new phytocannabinoid could account for the pharmacological properties of some cannabis varieties difficult to explain by the presence of the sole Δ9-THC.”
“This means that these compounds have higher affinity for the receptors in the human body,” lead study author Cinzia Citti told CNN. “In cannabis varieties where THC is present in very low concentrations, then we can think that the presence of another, more active cannabinoid can explain those effects.”
It was also revealed that THCP has a molecule chain of 7 atoms, while nearly 150 of the rest of marijuana chemical compounds only have a 5 atom molecule chain. This is the first time an atom length of that size has been discovered.
“Other phytocannabinoids with a different number of carbon atoms on the side chain are known and they have been called varinoids (with three carbon atoms), such as cannabidivarin (CBDV) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (Δ9-THCV), and orcinoids (with one carbon atom), such as cannabidiorcol (CBD-C1) and tetrahydrocannabiorcol (THC-C1). Both series are biosynthesized in the plant as the specific ketide synthases have been identified,” reads the report.
“The challenge is that it can take a long time to isolate, especially with rare sources,” Dr. Jane Ishmael, associate professor in Oregon State University's College of Pharmacy, told CNN. “I get the impression that these products were present in small amounts, so it's a surprise to find the natural products from a cannabis plant that we've known about for a long time.”
“There are other minor cannabinoids and traces in the plant that can be hard to study, but by isolation we can continue to assess the effects they might offer,” said Ishmael.
“Historically, many of our medicines have been derived by or inspired by natural products. By having new compounds that bind with very high affinity, that will give scientists a new probe into biological sciences.”