Painkiller Found in Liverwort Plants


Researchers from University of Bern suggested that THC-like substance found in liverwort plants contain painkiller similar to the one in marijuana

A team of researchers from Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, NCCR TransCure, University of Bern and Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, ETH Zurich found a chemical compound called perrottetinene in liverworts that may provide the pain and inflammation relief similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. The team found that perrottetinene in liverworts and THC in marijuana share similar molecular structures. Lab tests with human brain cells and in mice showed that similar to THC, perrottetinene easily attaches to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and reduces the effects of pain signals. The findings were described in the journal Science Advances on October 24, 2018.

According to Douglas Kinghorn, a phytochemist at Ohio State University in Columbus, liverworts are rarely noticed due to their small size. In 1994, a group of Japanese researchers discovered perrottetinene in liverworts. However, the current research offers strong evidence that the compound is a psychoactive cannabinoid. There are only three recorded species of liverwort in the Radula genus, which are found in Japan, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Tasmania and are known to produce perrottetinene. However, liverworts produce small amount of the substance, which is a restrain for efficiently studying its effects.

To overcome the hurdle, the team mapped perrottetinene’s molecular structure and created a synthetic, which was tested on mice. The team tracked pain responses in mice along with body temperature and movement, which are measures of perrottetinene’s psychoactivity. According to Jürg Gertsch, a biochemist at the University of Bern in Switzerland and study coauthor, the compound might be slightly less psychoactive than THC along and it may have fewer side effects. Gertsch also stated that cannabinoids have a broad range of applications. The team suggested that pharmaceutical companies can manufacture perrottetinene as a potential alternative to marijuana. Although, marijuana is prescribed to alleviate certain ailments and is legalized in some states, the cannabinoid remains classified as an illegal narcotic under the U.S. federal law.


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