There is a general consensus in the research community that psychedelics have immense potential in the treatment of mental health conditions. As more scientists have picked interest in these substances, it is also becoming apparent that the therapeutic role of psychedelics could extend to treating physical health conditions that aren’t connected to one’s mental state.
One big area where psychedelics could have numerous applications is in managing the inflammatory pathways responsible for several conditions afflicting humans. These disorders include those affecting the lungs, heart and the eyes.
This exciting research is also focusing on the serotonin receptors, just as the research on using psychedelics to treat mental health conditions. This group of receptors is key in regulating a number of complex human behaviors, such as sleep, appetite, cognition, sex, memory and aggression.
Interestingly, serotonin also plays a part in several physiological processes, such as cell division, gut function, inflammation and blood pressure.
During the 2020 PsyTech Virtual Summit, Dr. Charles Nichols, a pharmacology professor based at the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Louisiana State University (LSU), revealed that his research team discovered in 2008 that psychedelic substances had anti-inflammatory properties.
The team found that psychedelics didn’t just make the serotonin receptor to trigger neural pathways that result in hallucinations and other such psychoactive reactions. The receptor also had the capacity to mobilize other pathways that resulted in anti-inflammatory effects.
Nichols therefore believes that a lot more research needs to be done to understand the group of cells in the brain responsible for the effects brought on by psychedelics. He calls those cells “the trigger population.”
Once those cells are understood, it will be easier to predict or determine what sort of activation is necessary in order to initiate the desired behavioral or physiological reaction. With that understanding, it will be possible to develop therapeutic products that target specific conditions.
The LSU team reports that in their laboratory trials, psychedelics were able to block inflammatory responses in cell culture models, models of human inflammatory reactions and in whole animals. Such results point to the selective activation of serotonin receptors in order to modulate inflammatory responses.
More specifically, the LSU lab treated the aorta of a rat with DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoampthetamine). DOI has psychedelic effects that are similar to those triggered by mescaline. The rat aorta tissues were analyzed later and it was found that inflammation was reduced. This discovery could lead to the development of medications to treat inflammation-induced cardiac conditions.
Once the possibility of treating physical health conditions starts being exploited, there is nearly no limit as to the benefits which can arise from psychedelics. This could be the exact reason why companies like PsyBio Therapeutics, Inc. and others are investing massively in this field.
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