An Amazonian Tea Containing DMT Stimulates the Formation of New Brain Neurons


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Preparation of ayahuasca in Ecuador. Credit: Terpsichore

One of the primary natural elements of ayahuasca tea is dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which promotes neurogenesis — the development of brand-new nerve cells — according to research study led by the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

In addition to nerve cells, the infusion utilized for shamanic functions likewise causes the development of other neural cells such as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

“This capacity to modulate brain plasticity suggests that it has great therapeutic potential for a wide range of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases,” discussed José Ángel Morales, a scientist in the UCM and CIBERNED Department of Cellular Biology.

The research study, released in Translational Psychiatry, a Nature Research journal, reports the outcomes of 4 years of in vitro and in vivo experimentation on mice, showing that these display “a greater cognitive capacity when treated with this substance,” according to José Antonio López, a scientist in the Faculty of Psychology at the UCM and co-author of the research study.

Changing the receptor removes the hallucinogenic result

Ayahuasca is produced by blending 2 plants from the Amazon: the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the chacruna shrub (Psychotria viridis).

The DMT in ayahuasca tea binds to a type-2A serotonergic brain receptor, which improves its hallucinogenic result. In this research study, the receptor was altered to a sigma type receptor that does not have this result, therefore “greatly facilitating its future administration to patients.”

In neurodegenerative illness, it is the death of particular kinds of nerve cell that triggers the signs of pathologies such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Although people have the capability to produce brand-new neuronal cells, this depends upon a number of elements and is not constantly possible.

“The challenge is to activate our dormant capacity to form neurons and thus replace the neurons that die as a result of the disease. This study shows that DMT is capable of activating neural stem cells and forming new neurons,” concluded Morales.

Reference: “N,N-dimethyltryptamine compound found in the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca, regulates adult neurogenesis in vitro and in vivo” by Jose A. Morales-Garcia, Javier Calleja-Conde, Jose A. Lopez-Moreno, Sandra Alonso-Gil, Marina Sanz-SanCristobal, Jordi Riba and Ana Perez-Castillo, 28 September 2020, Translational Psychiatry.
DOI: 0.1038/s41398-020-01011-0

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