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$2.7 Million Federal Grant Will Fund Study to Find New Psychedelics

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: May 24, 2022   
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Psychedelic drugs are at the forefront of a new age of therapy. Substances like MDMA and the magic mushroom compound psilocybin have shown great potential to help treat mental health disorders such as PTSD, addiction, and depression.

But will these chemicals be enough? That’s the question on the mind of a group of researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. They’re about to start a new project to discover new, non-hallucinogenic treatments for substance use disorders.

Hundreds of compounds will be screened and tested to see if they can rewire parts of the brain to help people better cope with depression and substance abuse disorders. Promising compounds will undergo further animal testing at CU Anschutz.

The study to search for these psychoplastogens, as they’re so termed, has been funded by a $2.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“I’m very excited that NIDA is recognizing the potential that psychoplastogens might have for patients with substance use disorders,” David Olson, an associate professor in the departments of Chemistry, and Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at UC Davis, said in a statement.

“This grant will help us to understand the basic mechanisms by which these compounds impact addiction, and hopefully develop more effective and better tolerated treatments.”

The study will build upon Olsen’s existing work at UC Davis. His lab has previously synthesized hundreds of molecules related to psychedelics in the search for new drug therapies. One such chemical, tabernanthalog (TBG), produced both rapid and sustained anti-addictive effects in rodent models of heroin and alcohol self-administration. 

In addition to searching for new compounds with psychoplastogenic effects, the new research project will include mechanistic studies to understand how TBG impacts addiction. and the development of new compounds, he said.


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