Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada have been awarded a license to cultivate psilocybin mushrooms for research purposes. The university was granted the license to grow the so-called magic mushrooms by
The psilocybin mushroom cultivation program will be led by Dr. Max Jones and Dr. Gale Bozzo, professors in the Ontario Agricultural College’s Department of Plant Agriculture. They noted that the university is among the first Canadian universities to be granted a license to grow psilocybin mushrooms.
“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 noted that psilocybin mushrooms are not just one type of fungi. Rather, there are more than 200 different species that produce psilocybin, a compound that can produce psychedelic effects in those who consume it.
“People think magic mushrooms are a single type of mushroom that produces the chemical,”
“Those species aren’t that closely related; they’re diverse,” Jones added. “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.”
Dr. Melissa Perreault, a professor in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, believes that some of the compounds found in psilocybin mushrooms could help those who are suffering from depression or schizophrenia.
“There are many already working with psilocybin,” said Perreault. “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.”
Psilocybin Mushrooms and Mental Health
Research into psilocybin has shown that the compound has the potential to be an effective treatment for several serious mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction.
Psilocybin might not be the only compound found in the mushrooms that has therapeutic effects. Jones noted that research into the effects of cannabis has explored the various chemical compounds that may have medicinal or therapeutic benefits.
“THC is the main compound (in cannabis) that gets you high, but it also interacts with other compounds in the plant,” said Jones. “There are hundreds of different kinds of cannabis and each have slightly different effects.”
Jones hopes by being able to grow and cultivate these psilocybin mushrooms, the researchers will be able to create a reliable supply of the drug that can be used for future research.
“If one researcher does a study and another wants to reproduce that study, they want there to be a public source of mushrooms so they can test the same material,” said Jones. “Unlike pharmaceuticals, it is typically not a single chemical that is having the effect. So if you are doing clinical trials (and) don’t have re-producible starting materials, then it is hard to get re-producible results.”
The research team also hopes to develop a new synthetic medium for cultivating psilocybin mushrooms. Methods used today commonly use grain or manure, but Jones and Bozzo hope to devise a new medium that is more consistent and easily reproducible.