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Medicine Science

Scientists Finally Unlock the Recipe For Magic Mushrooms (gizmodo.com) 132

An anonymous reader writes: Aside from being a schedule 1 drug, scientists haven't fully understood the chemistry behind how mushrooms produce the chemical psilocybin -- until now. A new study may finally lay the groundwork for a medical-grade psilocybin patients can take. Gizmodo reports: "Living things make molecules through a series of chemical reactions, similar to how car makers produce cars on assembly lines. Enzymes act as the workers/robots, speeding up the reactions by helping put the pieces together. Actually making psilocybin requires mapping the biological factory. A 1968 paper (obviously it was in 1968) offered a proposed order of events leading to a finished psilocybin molecule, by adding radioactive elements and watching what happened to them on the assembly line. The researchers thought that maybe tryptophan, the amino acid everyone wrongly says makes you sleepy, was the first piece, which then went through four successive steps to become the finished product. The new study shows that the 1968 paper got the order wrong, and introduces the responsible genes and enzymes, the workers that do the specific task to get the final product. This time around, mapping the factory required sequencing the genomes of two magic mushroom species, Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe cyanescens. Then, the researchers found exactly which genes produce the required enzymes and spliced them into E. coli bacteria. Using those enzymes, they were able to rebuild the factory and create their own psilocybin." The study has been published in the German journal Angewandte Chemie.
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Scientists Finally Unlock the Recipe For Magic Mushrooms

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  • A 1968 paper (obviously it was in 1968)

    Sorry, but why is this obvious? Just redundant text or is there another reason?

  • If they release this E. coli variant into the wild, will people start getting high when they catch it?

    • by heson ( 915298 )
      Tripping on raw chicken!
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @08:30AM (#55024181)
      I have honestly been surprised that cloning the genes into E. coli or yeast for various illicit substances hasn't become widespread already. Whenever I see those articles about people "biohacking" in their garage to figure out whatever genetic illness their kid has I keep waiting to see a followup where they fund the treatment for their kid with a big fermenter full of THC.
      • Probably because it's pretty hard. Even with modern day chemistry sets, gene splicing isn't just cut and paste. Then you need to figure out what you just made and purify it. Requires a fairly sophisticated lab, not just a garage.

        It's certainly doable. I have no doubt in certain wilder, less civilized parts of the world like Trenton, NJ (or most anyplace in New Jersey for that matter) someone is trying to do this but it's not easy.

        And doing this on an industrial scale is even harder. OTOH, grown P. cuben

      • reproducing psilocybin is way, WAAY easier than reproducing cannabis in bacteria. I say cannabis and not "THC" because while THC has been reproduced in a chemical laboratory, there are about 12 different variants, and hundreds of other terpenes and cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that are unidentified, chemical reproduction procedures are unknown, and how they interact with THC and the human brain are mostly unkown. psilocybin is basically just one chemical, while the cannabis plant is dozens of differen
    • Why aren't we funding this?
  • Woo hoo! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by piojo ( 995934 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2017 @11:49PM (#55022981)

    Personally, I'm excited to see what this brings for treatment of depression and social anxiety. And maybe in twenty years, we'll come around and be willing to explore micro-dosing for medical purposes. (There is anecdotal evidence that it reduces emotional PMS to zero for a lot of women, and I'm curious what it does for those with reduced attention spans.)

    • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @12:12AM (#55023021) Homepage Journal

      It's also proven very effective at drastically reducing the frequency of migraine and cluster headaches.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Migraines and cluster headaches come from either tightening of blood vessels, high blood pressure due to being overweight (extra fat narrows blood vessels), or toxins in the blood stream. Sometimes eating out at somewhere different (friends house/party, cultural restaurant never been before). Could be different food proteins or biogenome. So it would seem relaxing blood vessels and allowing them to expand would reduce the pain.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          I'm not sure where you got that, but none of it is actually true of migraine or cluster headaches.

          There are headaches associated with blood pressure problems but they are not migraine or cluster headaches.

    • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:5, Funny)

      by clovis ( 4684 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @12:13AM (#55023025)

      Personally, I'm excited to see what this brings for treatment of depression and social anxiety. And maybe in twenty years, we'll come around and be willing to explore micro-dosing for medical purposes. (There is anecdotal evidence that it reduces emotional PMS to zero for a lot of women, and I'm curious what it does for those with reduced attention spans.)


    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The very best drug experience of my life was with mushrooms. That was over twenty years ago. I've never sought them out since, but I probably should. I felt so much clarity about life and the "universe". The positive mood probably lasted at least 6 months after that experience. I would use them again to try and cure the depression, etc, but I don't know where to get them now. My friends from 20's era are on to other things. I am definitely interested in micro-doses as anti-depressant. Fucking govern

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You can probably order spores of Psilocybe species by mail, possibly legally. Depending on where you are, the illegality usually comes when you grow the spores, which is easy to do with little equipment or effort; the key is to keep everything sterile so other fungi don't get a toehold.

        • It's not _that_ easy. If ergot fungus gets into the mix, it won't necessarily kill the mushrooms, but will make you sick as a dog or possibly kill you.

          Once you've grown the mycelium, growing the mushrooms is easy though.

          The market has pretty much solved the problem IMHO.

    • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @12:57AM (#55023127)
      The point in making it genetically, not via extraction from mushrooms (which is very, very very cheap) is so that you can tweak the molecule a little, and then get a patent approved for it, and then put it through FDA licencing, in order to get an exclusivity period while the patent is valid.
      Purely political alas.
      • by Ubi_NL ( 313657 )

        true, but you can then only patent the improvement, which (if people pay for this) needs to be substantial. The patent will not strip you of the ability to use the unmodified product.

        • Yeah, but lets face it. While it was fun when we were young, sneaking into a farmer's cow field, avoiding the bull, the angry cows, and the angry farmer gets kinda old after a while.

          Not only that, but many/most farmers in my area use the anitbiotics, etc. in feed which kills 'shroom production.

          Of course, if you do get some, you can always set up some brown rice and add the spores adn grow your own in a shit free environment....

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Organic brown rice flour mixed with vermiculite, to be exact. Plus a pressure cooker to sterilize everything beforehand and a rig, built by cannibalizing an ultrasonic humidifier plus a few stages of precipitators built from 2L Coke bottles and plastic tubing, to maintain the ideal moisture level.

            Not that I would ever do such a thing, of course.

      • by chihowa ( 366380 )

        Patents aside, clawing a drug back off of the DEA schedules (especially schedule I) is pretty much impossible and synthesizing a new compound is an easier prospect. For example, MDMA showed great promise in actual clinical studies for treating PTSD and was kept on schedule I (no medical use) against the advice of the entire medical community. The DEA does not like psychedelics at all.

        • That too, even trivial changes that do not meaningfully affect psychoactivity can be spun as being a significantly novel compound.
      • by piojo ( 995934 )

        I'll re-emphasize the bold text in that article: Just because something is a social construction does not mean we don’t experience it.

        If you have a problem and it's affecting your life enough that you feel you need a cure, then the causes are immaterial except where they're related to the cure. In this particular case, good luck coming up with a societal and psychological cure for PMS.

        Also, if you're thinking it's an anglo issue, you jumped the gun. PMS is a thing in China, though I don't know about t

  • What the fuck is wrong with you people!? Splice it into brewer's yeast, not the fucking plague.

  • and probably safe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clovis ( 4684 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @12:18AM (#55023039)

    Plus, these is that psylocybin is considered to be among the safest recreational drugs.

    https://www.theguardian.com/so... [theguardian.com]
    https://www.globaldrugsurvey.c... [globaldrugsurvey.com]
    Disclaimer: I'm aware that the globaldrugsurvey's methodology and conclusions has major, almost stupid problems, but their raw data does suggest that that the mushrooms are fairly safe.

    • but unless you're mentally prepared for a full trip you'd better to just stick to say 1/2 gram of shrooms and have similar to weed high but less body/head stone and more of a semi mild perception high.

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        Sadly that doesn't explain all that much to me anyway since I haven't taken cannabis either.

        • Headaches go away (so... between may and December I am migraine-free when I go foraging and eat on the spot), aromas and taste and colors become more intense. at 5g the room is spinning and I feel agitated- creeping malaise (creepy-crawly feeling) but stuff like grass and trees and woodgrain look like they're fluid. I invariably puke though - my stomach does not agree with shrooms. Totally worth it though - far better than suffering through 3+ migraines a week with occasional cluster headaches in between. I

          • I go foraging and eat on the spot),

            How do you tell the difference? I've had mushrooms a couple of times, good high, no ill-effects, but I can't get past the fact that other mushrooms that look the same can kill you. It's an awful lot of trust if you're relying on someone else to pick them for you (and don't know what to look for yourself).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @12:35AM (#55023079)

    Producing it via this method is not at all required to start using it therapeutically. The only reason they are going to such great lengths is so they can patent it and have monopoly "rights".

    More proof that our perverse "intellectual property" system is precisely what is making the perverse outcomes.

    • Producing it via this method is not at all required to start using it therapeutically. The only reason they are going to such great lengths is so they can patent it and have monopoly "rights".

      We already know how to produce it synthetically, so I doubt it is only about patenting the method; it is simply curiosity driven research into how a living organism produces a molecule. This is in itself valuable knowledge - many chemical pathways in biology are similar at least in parts, although they lead to wildly different end products.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @01:27AM (#55023201)
    Psilocybin is a small achiral molecule which is easy to prepare synthetically. (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/np030059u). If we wanted to use it medicinally, the availability of the molecule would not be the limiting factor.
    • As far as complexity of drug-like molecules is concerned, Psilocybin is really a trivial molecule where large-scale manufacturing in mushrooms or GM-yeast/bacteria would be waste of money. The paper identifies the reaction sequence and the involved enzymes, which is certainly interesting, but as absolutely ZERO applicability to any type of medical-grade commercial production.

  • Next on scientists' list: the ingredients to the eleven secret herbs and spices!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Lets make magic mushrooms illegal so we could sell medicine

  • Guys, I think I perfected the pathway to create psilocybin via...aww man, my microscope melted again.
  • Tryptophan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @06:03AM (#55023755) Homepage

    Tryptophan isn't "wrongly" said to make you sleepy - it does [nih.gov] make you sleepy. The myth is that it's tryptophan to blame when Americans get sleepy after a Thanksgiving feast, when in reality most of the blame lies on the mass consumption of carbohydrates. Turkey is no more tryptophan-rich than many other meats, such as chicken.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      Yeah, that one drives me crazy. "Sure, I ate 5000 calories, but the reason I'm sleepy is because of the turkey, which I ate in amounts only slightly larger than what I'd put in a sandwich on a normal day." Then there's other things, like the frequent drinking, the all-day activity, the travel, the time with relatives, all of which might make a person sleepy, depending.

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @06:28AM (#55023835)

    It has been nearly 20 years but shrooms turned me into the best possible movie audience member. I totally got whatever a director intended emotionally. Don'the ask me to put a caveat on it - shrooms were universally awesome for me. I absolutely understand why they would have therapeutic value.

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @07:25AM (#55023951)

    ... if those modified E. Coli bacteria were ever released and came to populate the guts of certain mammals.

  • Where do I send the money?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Actually making psilocybin requires mapping the biological factory."

    Why do people write about a topic where they know so little, that statements like this don't immediately jump out at them as bullshit?

    4-HO-DMT is just one of a varied family of tryptamines that is trivial to synthesise, as many Chinese 'research chemical' suppliers know full well.

    And if you -really- want to phosphorylate psilocin into psilocybin, it's not that hard either, though nobody bothers because it'll be immediately oxidised back in

  • Have not done either for decades, but pretty sure my preference would still stand today.

  • Just mix ammonia and bleach.

  • Not sure what kind of value we can get from this kind of hallucinogen. We have known about magic mushrooms since prehistoric times, and there was major experimentation with them in the 60s, but nothing good came of it, and aside from synesthesia and what amounts to waking dreams that you can't get out of, these things aren't useful to humanity in any real way.

    Probably one of the reasons that it took from 1968 to 2017 for someone to figure out how to synthesize the drug.

  • Drugs we don't make and sell for 1000x profit are bad mmmkay? Mushrooms are evil. Now that we've figured out how to make them in our lab they are good though, and you should buy them from us. Only us.

  • Why not just eat the mushrooms?
    It's probably much cheaper to grow them rather than go thru a tedious synthesis.

    And, isn't E.Coli bad for humans?

    I am thinking this is a step toward engineering a (tool) to control humans.
  • where i'm from thats called "being stuck in a trip" as in ... you dont snap out of it after tripping too hard ... its probably very scientific but it sounds somewhat weird to me that suddenly synthesized psylocibin would be acceptable whereas chewing on shrooms is illegal since even if, i don't think they get to predict how it affects people. thats why its "a trip" ... i havent had shrooms in probably over 20 years, i havent had anything but good old legal alcohol (which aint dreughs in years and years and

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun