OPEN Foundation

J. Taylor

A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential


The psychedelic alkaloid ibogaine has anti-addictive properties in both humans and animals1. Unlike most medications for the treatment of substance use disorders, anecdotal reports suggest that ibogaine has the potential to treat addiction to various substances, including opiates, alcohol and psychostimulants. The effects of ibogaine-like those of other psychedelic compounds-are long-lasting2, which has been attributed to its ability to modify addiction-related neural circuitry through the activation of neurotrophic factor signalling3,4. However, several safety concerns have hindered the clinical development of ibogaine, including its toxicity, hallucinogenic potential and tendency to induce cardiac arrhythmias. Here we apply the principles of function-oriented synthesis to identify the key structural elements of the potential therapeutic pharmacophore of ibogaine, and we use this information to engineer tabernanthalog-a water-soluble, non-hallucinogenic, non-toxic analogue of ibogaine that can be prepared in a single step. In rodents, tabernanthalog was found to promote structural neural plasticity, reduce alcohol- and heroin-seeking behaviour, and produce antidepressant-like effects. This work demonstrates that, through careful chemical design, it is possible to modify a psychedelic compound to produce a safer, non-hallucinogenic variant that has therapeutic potential.

Cameron, L. P., Tombari, R. J., Lu, J., Pell, A. J., Hurley, Z. Q., Ehinger, Y., Vargas, M. V., McCarroll, M. N., Taylor, J. C., Myers-Turnbull, D., Liu, T., Yaghoobi, B., Laskowski, L. J., Anderson, E. I., Zhang, G., Viswanathan, J., Brown, B. M., Tjia, M., Dunlap, L. E., Rabow, Z. T., … Olson, D. E. (2021). A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential. Nature, 589(7842), 474–479.

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Ketamine accelerates fear extinction via mTORC1 signaling


Impaired fear extinction contributes to the persistence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and can be utilized for the study of novel therapeutic agents. Glutamate plays an important role in the formation of traumatic memories, and in the pathophysiology and treatment of PTSD, highlighting several possible drug targets. Recent clinical studies demonstrate that infusion of ketamine, a glutamate NMDA receptor antagonist, rapidly and significantly reduces symptom severity in PTSD patients. In the present study, we examine the mechanisms underlying the actions of ketamine in a rodent model of fear conditioning, extinction, and renewal. Rats received ketamine or saline 24 h after fear conditioning and were then subjected to extinction-training on each of the following three days. Ketamine administration enhanced extinction on the second day of training (i.e., reduced freezing behavior to cue) and produced a long-lasting reduction in freezing on exposure to cue plus context 8 days later. Additionally, ketamine and extinction exposure increased levels of mTORC1 in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a region involved in the acquisition and retrieval of extinction, and infusion of the selective mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin into the mPFC blocked the effects of ketamine on extinction. Ketamine plus extinction also increased cFos in the mPFC and administration of a glutamate-AMPA receptor antagonist blocked the effects of ketamine. These results support the hypothesis that ketamine produces long-lasting mTORC1/protein synthesis and activity dependent effects on neuronal circuits that enhance the expression of extinction and could represent a novel approach for the treatment of PTSD.

Girgenti, M. J., Ghosal, S., LoPresto, D., Taylor, J. R., & Duman, R. S. (2017). Ketamine accelerates fear extinction via mTORC1 signaling. Neurobiology of Disease, 100, 1-8. 10.1016/j.nbd.2016.12.026
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4 October - Online psychedelic Q&A with Rick Doblin (founder and president of MAPS)