Psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms and LSD, have shown to be extremely effective in treating PTSD and depression. With more states working towards decriminalizing psychedelic substances, we can do more than hope that these drugs will become legal alternative forms of therapy in the near future. However, their use is currently restricted because of the hallucinogenic effect they can cause.
So how do we reap the benefits of these compounds while avoiding their unwanted side effects? Ron Dror, an associate professor of computer science from Stanford University, has found an answer. The professor and his research team are currently developing a computer simulation that could help scientists redesign these psychedelic substances in a way that eliminates the side effects and retains their numerous benefits.
The researchers have demonstrated that their findings could be utilized in eliminating or minimizing the side effects of a wide range of drugs that prey on GPCRs, or the proteins found in any human cell. Psychedelics such as LSD, as well almost one-third of prescription drugs including opioids, usually attach themselves to these protein-coupled receptors. When the molecule of a drug attaches itself to these protein receptors, the process causes numerous changes in the cell to occur. Some of those changes can be dangerous, while others are beneficial.
The research team compared the effects that a GPCR had with a variety of different molecules attached and were able to identify how the drug molecule changes the protein receptors’ shape. This information allowed them to identify a method to provide the benefits while preventing the side effects. Using these results, the scientists then created new molecules that caused favorable changes in the cells. While the molecules are not yet suitable for human use, the creation of these new molecules brings the research field one step closer to developing drugs that are side-effect free, which is a clear win.
The team’s discoveries also provide scientists with the chance to avoid a lot of the trial and error that goes into testing drugs and identifying potential side effects. Doing so brings promising drug candidates into human and animal trials faster and also improves the chances that these drugs will prove to be effective and safe.
The research team that has made these key discoveries is comprised of Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz, who shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Andrew Kruse, a former student of Kobilka’s; Carl-Mikael Suomivuori, a postdoctoral scholar; and Naomi Latorraca, a former graduate student. The latter two candidates led the team, which was made up of 11 researchers in total.
The study’s findings can be used by researchers to develop better ways to design drugs that pose fewer dangers while retaining their efficacy. Dror hopes this will eliminate the harmful side effects of drugs used to treat various diseases including chronic pain, psychiatric disorders and heart conditions.
Cybin Corp. is a company you need to watch in the psychedelics space. This Canada-based company focuses on developing medicinal as well as functional mushroom products.
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