Dr. Max Jones and Dr. Gale Bozzo, two professors at UG’s Ontario Agricultural College (Department of Plant Agriculture), received a Health Canada “dealer’s license” on Oct. 25. The license permits the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, and is one of the first universities in Canada to be permitted to do so.
“We are very excited about this approval as it will allow us to study these psychedelic mushrooms to better understand their biology and genetics, examine what other functional compounds they might contain, and provide well-characterized and chemically consistent material for preclinical and potentially clinical evaluation,” Jones said. He previously received a license to study cannabis back in November 2018 as well.
According to Jones, there are more than 200 species of mushrooms that can produce psilocybin. “Those species aren’t that closely related; they’re diverse,” Jones said in a press release. “So that makes scientists like me wonder: what else are these mushrooms producing? If you have 200 species producing a compound that affects the human brain, it’s likely they are producing other interesting compounds, too.”
Psilocybin therapy has become a popular treatment for conditions such as depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Dr. Melissa Perreault, Professor in Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and another researchers involved with the study, there’s a specific function that they’re hoping to examine. “There are many already working with psilocybin, but we’re interested in the potential biological activity of some of the other compounds in these mushrooms and whether they have any therapeutic value alone or in combination with psilocybin,” Perreault said.
Perreault’s experience has previously involved studies of the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with medical conditions like depression or autism spectrum disorders. Her plan is to examine the signaling pathways that psilocybin might affect. “If there is any potential therapeutic value in these compounds, we would then bring them into some of the models I work with, such as those used to study specific aspects of depression or autism, to examine their therapeutic effects,” Perreault said.
In conclusion, Jones said that he believes increased access to mushrooms will allow more studies to be conducted. “There is a real need for a public supply of these mushrooms,” Jones said. We aim to create a supply of mushrooms to be used for preclinical and perhaps clinical trials in which the genetics and cultivation methodologies will be fully disclosed to researchers and the public.”
The press release also notes that the researchers plan to develop a synthetic mushroom growing method to make it easily reproduced. Typically, mushrooms are grown on grains or manure.
Psilocybin mushrooms are continuing to grow with interest among the medical community. Earlier this year in January, one organization presented evidence of mushroom’s therapeutic qualities and announced its intention to have the substance rescheduled in the United Nations 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances Act. In August, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry showed how psilocybin has the potential to treat alcohol addiction. In mid-September, the University of Copenhagen began examining the effects of psilocybin to treat obesity. Just last week, Johns Hopkins University announced a study to analyze how psilocybin can help patients quit smoking. The substance has even become the muse for numerous high-profile musicians, such as Björk, Ellie Goulding, Kid Cudi, and Lil Nas X.
The state of Oregon is planning on finalizing its rules to regulate psilocybin by December 2022, while a few other states are presenting psilocybin allowances on the November ballot.
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