After a half-century of attempts, psilocybin has finally been synthesized in the lab

August 16, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers at Friedrich Schiller University Jena has figured how out to make psilocybin, the chemical responsible for creating hallucinations in people who consume the mushrooms that produce it naturally. In their paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie the team describes isolating the enzymes needed to create the chemical, developing the recipe and creating psilocybin samples in their lab.

People have known of the hallucinogenic effects of eating certain "magic mushrooms" for hundreds or even thousands of years. But it took Albert Hofman's efforts to isolate the psychoactive ingredients in 1958. Since that time, many scientists have tried to figure out how, exactly, mushrooms make so that it can be artificially synthesized and sold as a medicinal drug. Attempts have failed until now. Notably, growing magic mushrooms for commercial use has proven difficult due to the unique attributes of the mushrooms.

To learn how mushrooms naturally create psilocybin, the researchers sequenced the genomes of two of the main types of magic —that allowed them to isolate the genes that were responsible for producing the enzymes that lead to the creation of psilocybin. Next, they engineered fungi and bacteria samples to confirm their initial findings and to learn of the order in which the synthesis took place. As it turned out, there were four enzymes involved in the process, but after more study, the researchers found that only three of them (PsiD, PsiK, and PsiM) were needed to make the chemical in the lab.

Using this information, the researchers developed a "one pot reaction" recipe for creating psilocybin on demand, utilizing the enzymes they had isolated. They then created samples of psilocybin in their lab—the first team ever to do so.

Their efforts may pave the way for commercial production of psilocybin as a pharmaceutical drug for use in treating such as depression or anxiety, or even for smoking cessation.

Explore further: Active ingredient in magic mushrooms reduces anxiety and depression in cancer patients

More information: Janis Fricke et al. Enzymatic synthesis of psilocybin, Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2017). DOI: 10.1002/anie.201705489

Related Stories

Active ingredient in magic mushrooms reduces anxiety and depression in cancer patients

December 10, 2015
A single dose of psilocybin, the major hallucinogenic component in magic mushrooms, induces long-lasting decreases in anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer according to a new study presented ...

Researchers urge caution around psilocybin use

December 30, 2016
In a survey of almost 2,000 people who said they had had a past negative experience when taking psilocybin-containing "magic mushrooms," Johns Hopkins researchers say that more than 10 percent believed their worst "bad trip" ...

Magic mushroom compound psilocybin could provide new avenue for antidepressant research

May 17, 2016
Psilocybin - a hallucinogenic compound derived from magic mushrooms - may offer a possible new avenue for antidepressant research, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry today.

Psilocybin reduces psychological pain after social exclusion

April 18, 2016
Social problems are key characteristics in psychiatric disorders and are insufficiently targeted by current treatment approaches. By applying brain imaging methods, researchers at the University of Zurich now show that a ...

fMRI brain imaging illuminates magic mushrooms' psychedelic effects

January 23, 2012
Brain scans of people under the influence of the psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, have given scientists the most detailed picture to date of how psychedelic drugs work. The findings of two studies being ...

Recommended for you

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Age and gut bacteria contribute to multiple sclerosis disease progression

November 17, 2017
Researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School published a study suggesting that gut bacteria at young age can contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) disease onset and progression.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

Ancient enzyme could boost power of liquid biopsies to detect and profile cancers

November 16, 2017
Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University ...

FDA to crack down on risky stem cell offerings

November 16, 2017
U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.