This review (2021) finds that psychedelics may act as modulators of the immune system by reducing levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers. The early evidence points towards psychedelics also being effective in treating or preventing brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease).
“The studies of psychedelics, especially psychedelic tryptamines like psilocybin, are rapidly gaining interest in neuroscience research. Much of this interest stems from recent clinical studies demonstrating that they have a unique ability to improve the debilitating symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) long-term after only a single treatment. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently designated two Phase III clinical trials studying the ability of psilocybin to treat forms of MDD with “Breakthrough Therapy” status. If successful, the use of psychedelics to treat psychiatric diseases like depression would be revolutionary. As more evidence appears in the scientific literature to support their use in psychiatry to treat MDD on and substance use disorders (SUD), recent studies with rodents revealed that their therapeutic effects might extend beyond treating MDD and SUD. For example, psychedelics may have efficacy in the treatment and prevention of brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer Disease. Preclinical work has highlighted psychedelics’ ability to induce neuroplasticity and synaptogenesis, and neural progenitor cell proliferation. Psychedelics may also act as immunomodulators by reducing levels of proinflammatory biomarkers, including IL-1β, IL-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor-α (TNF-α). Their exact molecular mechanisms, and induction of cellular interactions, especially between neural and glial cells, leading to therapeutic efficacy, remain to be determined. In this review, we discuss recent findings and information on how psychedelics may act therapeutically on cells within the Central Nervous System (CNS) during brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases.“
Authors: Urszula Kozlowska, Charles D. Nichols, Kalina Wiatr & Maciej Figiel
As we are progressing through the so-called Psychedelic Renaissance it would appear that the potential of psychedelics knows no limits. What if the therapeutic effects of psychedelics may extend beyond mental disorders and additionally, help those with brain injuries and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease? Neuroimaging studies have shown that psychedelics decrease modularity in the brain. New evidence argues it may also be possible that psychedelics decrease levels of inflammation-inducing biomarkers in the brain. Although such a statement remains speculative at best, for people living with a disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for which there is currently no cure, the potential role of psychedelics as immunomodulators offer hope for the future.
The present study offers food for thought regarding the role of psychedelics as modulators of the brains innate immune system. Based on previous research, the authors of the paper at hand discuss the influence psychedelics may have on neural tissue homeostasis. That is, the ability of cells within the central nervous system to self-regulate and maintain normal functioning.
What the review proposes:
- Psychedelics can induce neurogenesis and neuroplasticity while simultaneously reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, two significant issues in neurodegenerative disorders.
- Cytokines are a broad category of small proteins that play a vital role in cell signaling. Studies in cells (in vitro) have shown that DMT and 5-MeO-DMT reduce levels of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1ẞ, IL-6 and TNF-α while promoting the expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10.
- Psychedelics may interact with serotonin receptor subtypes that are involved in mediating the central nervous systems immune response, leading to downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines.
- In patients with neurodegenerative disorders, the psychotropic effects of psychedelics may be a limiting factor when treating patients with these disorders. The authors suggest that novel psychedelic compounds devoid of hallucinogenic properties may be of benefit.
This review gives a comprehensive overview regarding how psychedelics could be used to treat neurodegenerative disorders. The evidence discussed leads one to believe that this potential role of psychedelics cannot go unnoticed. Nevertheless, as is the case with the majority of psychedelic research, further research is needed to realize these speculations.
Find this paper
Journal of Neurochemistry
September 13, 2021
Authors associated with this publication with profiles on BlossomCharles D. Nichols
Charles D. Nichols is a professor of Pharmacology at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and sponsored researcher at Eleusis.