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Sarah Tok, Tissue Culture Lab Manager at Sublime Brands- Interview Series

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“Decreasing the size of the Meristem seems to be a newer goal for many labs around the country. The idea is, the smaller the tissue excised, the purer the plant produced will be, even if it does take slightly longer to sprout.”

Sarah Tok

Cannabis micropropagation and tissue culture are pivotal because they allow for the precise replication of desired cannabis strains, ensuring genetic consistency and purity. This technology not only boosts crop yields and quality but also offers a sustainable and scalable approach to meet the growing demands of the cannabis industry while reducing the reliance on traditional cloning methods.

In this rapidly evolving field, Sarah Tok stands as a trailblazer and a driving force behind innovation. As the manager of a cutting-edge tissue culture lab, she has dedicated her career to advancing the frontiers of cannabis biotechnology. Her expertise lies in the art and science of cultivating cannabis plants through tissue culture, a method known for its precision and potential to revolutionize the industry.

In this exclusive interview, we delve deep into the world of tissue culture, where Sarah's mastery shines. She shares invaluable insights into the burgeoning trend of synthetic seeds, which offer new possibilities for storing, transporting, and planting cannabis, along with the latest focus in labs nationwide—minimizing the size of the Meristem. These insights provide a glimpse into the forefront of cannabis cultivation, highlighting the remarkable potential that tissue culture holds for the industry's future.

Can you describe your role as a Tissue Culture Lab Manager at Sublime Brands? What are your primary responsibilities, and how do they contribute to the company's goals in cannabis micropropagation?

As a Tissue Culture Lab Manager, I am responsible for overseeing all lab activities including processing plant material; preparing media; employing sterile technique; tracking data; sanitation of tools, equipment, and maintaining lab cleanliness. I also oversee selection, development, production and storage of over 100 Cannabis Genetics.

Tissue culture plays a crucial role in the propagation of cannabis plants. Could you share some insights into the specific techniques and technologies you and your team utilize to ensure the successful micropropagation of cannabis plants?

In our lab, we've had several years to experiment with various procedures, and some of our go-to procedures we've found success with include: PPM (plant preservative mixture) added to all our media recipes to help fight contamination, Synthetic seeds to keep strains in long-term cold/dark storage to reduce the amount of maintenance required to keep all the strains in our library, focusing on 0.03 mm Meristems to reduce chances of disease, 70% on everything for surface sterilization instead of 100% to increase effectiveness, and cold/chemotherapy combo to eliminate Hop Latent Viroid.

Maintaining genetic consistency and disease-free plants is paramount in cannabis micropropagation. How does your team at Sublime Brands ensure genetic stability and safeguard against potential pathogens or contaminants during the tissue culture process?

For starters, we always bring new, potentially diseased strains into our lab in a sealed vessel with 1% Bleach to avoid cross contamination. Also, we only plant new strains from our Tissue Culture library once that processed tissue has tested negative for Pythium, Fusarium, Powdery Mildew and Hop Latent Viroid to ensure the tissue process was effective and to prevent spreading diseases to any of the other plants in our Veg room. Last but not least, we start and end every task by sterilizing our workspace and tools; clean in, clean out.

Cannabis cultivation is subject to rigorous regulations. Can you elaborate on how your work in tissue culture aligns with compliance and quality control standards in the cannabis industry, especially with regard to plant genetics and propagation?

Mold is a huge factor in Cannabis, and while the environment can certainly affect mold growth, disease is an even bigger factor. By killing any potential mold-causing diseases, Tissue Culture can help eliminate one of the most common challenges among growers, and simplify their quest toward quality control.

As far as propagation is concerned, state inspectors usually bust this department for cleanliness issues. Since sterile plants cannot grow without a sterile environment, state cleanliness standards and Tissue Culture are on the same page! Sterilized tools in storage, sterilized surfaces, and no loose plant matter all point to a passing grade for state inspection.

Now, plant genetics are definitely a topic of debate. Genetic drift from traditional cloning has patients and growers questioning the very strains they are growing/smoking. However, with Tissue Culture, genetic drift is not only eliminated, but a genetic reset occurs instead. This means, the Chem Dawg or GMO you acquired as medicine or to grow now looks, smells and smokes more like the original genetics than any traditional clone ever could.

The cannabis industry is rapidly evolving. What emerging trends or innovations do you see in cannabis micropropagation, and how do you ensure that Sublime Brands stays at the forefront of these developments to maintain a competitive edge?

Synthetic Seeds are a huge trend in Tissue Culture right now. They can be used to store, transport, or just plant. Also, decreasing the size of the Meristem seems to be a newer goal for many labs around the country. The idea is, the smaller the tissue excised, the purer the plant produced will be, even if it does take slightly longer to sprout. Tissue Culture Clones as merchandise for dispensaries and nurseries are also increasing across the world as laws change. Hopefully this trend continues so virus spread among the Cannabis Community can be slowed. Last but not least, over the past 10 years, Meta Topolin has become increasingly popular as a plant hormone for Cannabis Tissue Culture. Studies about this hormone have been around for years, but growers seemed to not initially find as much success as the studies. Some still might be looking for that success, but our lab, along with many other prominent Tissue Culture labs around the country, have named this as one of their go-to hormones.

It was a pleasure having this conversation with Sarah Tok.

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.