Psilocybin Could Help in Combating Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic illness characterized by high levels of blood sugar. There are different types of diabetes, the most common being types I and II. Latest data estimates that by 2045, more than 700 million individuals globally could be afflicted with the illness as its prevalence continued to rise.

Researchers have commenced studies into whether psilocybin may help fight the effects of diabetes. Psilocybin is the primary psychoactive compound found in various species of hallucinogenic mushrooms. In the last couple of years, the compound’s therapeutic potential has been recognized, particularly for mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For their study, the researchers focused on how psilocybin interacted with serotonin receptors in the brain. These receptors, which are also found in the pancreas, play an important role in regulating insulin release and production. In diabetics, this process is disrupted when pancreatic β-cells don’t function properly. These cells, which are responsible for insulin production, become compromised when they are lost or damaged. This makes it hard for the body to regulate blood sugar levels.

Professor Igor Kovalchuk, the author of the study, revealed that the team’s focus was on testing whether psilocybin would have antidiabetic effects. The researchers used a rat insulinoma cell line for their study, given its relevance to human β-cell function.

The researchers began by looking into how pancreatic β-cells exposed to high lipid and high glucose conditions were affected by a specified concentration of psilocybin. These conditions were designed to induce the damage and stress typically observed in the pancreatic β-cells of diabetic individuals.

They discovered that cells treated with psilocybin had better viability compared to those that didn’t receive any psilocybin. This suggests that the psychoactive compound has a protective effect on β-cells, helping to alleviate the impact of metabolic stress linked to diabetes. The researchers also discovered that treating the cells with psilocybin reduced some apoptotic biomarkers in the β-cells. Apoptosis plays a huge role in the loss of β-cells in diabetic patients.

In addition, the investigators observed that psilocybin didn’t considerably improve impaired secretion of insulin under high lipid and glucose conditions. This showed that while the psychedelic could protect β-cells from apoptosis, it didn’t improve their functional response to glucose.

In their report, the researchers explained that their findings offered preliminary evidence that psilocybin microdosing would likely have a positive effect for prediabetic and diabetic individuals. The findings of this preliminary study were published in “Genes” journal. Other researchers involved in the study include Olga Kovalchuk, Dong-Ping Li, Bo Wang and Esmaeel Ghasemi Gojani.

Other research teams at companies such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) are also studying other potential therapeutic attributes of magic mushrooms, and it is likely that regulator-approved psychedelic medicines could soon become available to patients.

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