'Magic Mushroom' mass production edges closer as hallucinogen mystery solved
The naturally-derived compound called psilocybin found in so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ has been known about for nearly 60 years. Now, German researchers from Friedrich Schiller University Jena have identified four key enzymes needed to synthesize the compound.
Two mushroom species were used in the study, which saw the team identify two previously-unknown enzymes, reported Chemical and Engineering News.
Using the data the team were then able to develop the first ever enzymatic synthesis of the compound, creating their own psilocybin in a lab.
“Given the renewed pharmaceutical interest in psilocybin, our results may lay the foundation for its biotechnological production,” wrote the authors of the new study published in medical journal Angewandte Chemie.
Psilocybin, which had a long-running stigma as a mind-altering drug for party-goers, is increasingly being considered a safe treatment for various conditions related to mood and affective disorders, such as anxiety, depression, addiction and even cluster headaches.
In May a study revealed that psilocybin helped lift depression in a pool of 12 subjects.
The biggest issue surrounding the consumption of the compound in its organic mushroom form stems from users mistakenly ingesting toxic lookalikes in the wild and suffering dangerous, potentially lethal, side effects.
Research has found that psilocybin is a much safer substance than other illicit drugs such as LSD, cocaine and MDMA. In recent times psilocybin has even been found to help ‘reset’ brains as they’re undergoing counselling.
While this step could be the beginning of psilocybin’s journey into the mass market, advanced clinical trials are unlikely to come into effect for a number of years.