OPEN Foundation

L. Cameron

A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential

Abstract

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. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-3008-z

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Chronic, Intermittent Microdoses of the Psychedelic N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Produce Positive Effects on Mood and Anxiety in Rodents

Abstract

Drugs capable of ameliorating symptoms of depression and anxiety while also improving cognitive function and sociability are highly desirable. Anecdotal reports have suggested that serotonergic psychedelics administered in low doses on a chronic, intermittent schedule, so-called “microdosing”, might produce beneficial effects on mood, anxiety, cognition, and social interaction. Here, we test this hypothesis by subjecting male and female Sprague Dawley rats to behavioral testing following the chronic, intermittent administration of low doses of the psychedelic N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The behavioral and cellular effects of this dosing regimen were distinct from those induced following a single high dose of the drug. We found that chronic, intermittent, low doses of DMT produced an antidepressant-like phenotype and enhanced fear extinction learning without impacting working memory or social interaction. Additionally, male rats treated with DMT on this schedule gained a significant amount of body weight during the course of the study. Taken together, our results suggest that psychedelic microdosing may alleviate symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders, though the potential hazards of this practice warrant further investigation.
Cameron, L. P., Benson, C. J., DeFelice, B. C., Fiehn, O., & Olson, D. E. (2019). Chronic, Intermittent Microdoses of the Psychedelic N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Produce Positive Effects on Mood and Anxiety in Rodents. ACS chemical neuroscience., 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00692
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Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT).

Abstract

Though relatively obscure, N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is an important molecule in psychopharmacology as it is the archetype for all indole-containing serotonergic psychedelics. Its structure can be found embedded within those of better-known molecules such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin. Unlike the latter two compounds, DMT is ubiquitous, being produced by a wide variety of plant and animal species. It is one of the principal psychoactive components of ayahuasca, a tisane made from various plant sources that has been used for centuries. Furthermore, DMT is one of the few psychedelic compounds produced endogenously by mammals, and its biological function in human physiology remains a mystery. In this review, we cover the synthesis of DMT as well as its pharmacology, metabolism, adverse effects, and potential use in medicine. Finally, we discuss the history of DMT in chemical neuroscience and why this underappreciated molecule is so important to the field of psychedelic science.
Cameron, L. P., & Olson, D. E. (2018). Dark classics in chemical neuroscience: N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). ACS chemical neuroscience9(10), 2344-2357., 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00101
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Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity

Abstract

Atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression and related disorders. The ability to promote both structural and functional plasticity in the PFC has been hypothesized to underlie the fast-acting antidepressant properties of the dissociative anesthetic ketamine. Here, we report that, like ketamine, serotonergic psychedelics are capable of robustly increasing neuritogenesis and/or spinogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. These changes in neuronal structure are accompanied by increased synapse number and function, as measured by fluorescence microscopy and electrophysiology. The structural changes induced by psychedelics appear to result from stimulation of the TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling pathways and could possibly explain the clinical effectiveness of these compounds. Our results underscore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective, and fast-acting treatments for depression and related disorders.
Ly, C., Greb, A. C., Cameron, L. P., Wong, J. M., Barragan, E. V., Wilson, P. C., … & Duim, W. C. (2018). Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity. Cell reports23(11), 3170-3182. 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.05.022
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Effects of N, N-Dimethyltryptamine on Rat Behaviors Relevant to Anxiety and Depression

Abstract

Depression and anxiety disorders are debilitating diseases resulting in substantial economic costs to society. Traditional antidepressants often take weeks to months to positively affect mood and are ineffective for about 30% of the population. Alternatives, such as ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic capable of producing hallucinations, and the psychoactive tisane ayahuasca, have shown great promise due to their fast-acting nature and effectiveness in treatment-resistant populations. Here, we investigate the effects of N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the principle hallucinogenic component of ayahuasca, in rodent behavioral assays relevant to anxiety and depression using adult, male, Sprague-Dawley rats. We find that while DMT elicits initial anxiogenic responses in several of these paradigms, its long-lasting effects tend to reduce anxiety by facilitating the extinction of cued fear memory. Furthermore, DMT reduces immobility in the forced swim test, which is a characteristic behavioral response induced by many antidepressants. Our results demonstrate that DMT produces antidepressant and anxiolytic behavioral effects in rodents, warranting further investigation of ayahuasca and classical psychedelics as treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cameron, L. P., Benson, C. J., Dunlap, L. E., & Olson, D. E. (2018). Effects of N, N-dimethyltryptamine on rat behaviors relevant to anxiety and depression. ACS chemical neuroscience. 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00134
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27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights

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