Summary: Researchers in Australia have analyzed the genomes of over 100 varieties of Psilocybe cubensis, commonly known as magic mushrooms. Their findings could pave the way for the development of “designer shrooms” with unique psychedelic compounds, offering potential health benefits.
Unlocking the Genomes of Magic Mushrooms for Health Benefits
The study, conducted by The University of Queensland, Australia, involved the genetic analysis of 122 varieties of Psilocybe cubensis, including 86 commercial cultivars and 38 wild-grown varieties in Australia. The research aimed to understand the genetic diversity and evolutionary journey of these mushrooms, which have been used by humans for thousands of years.
Psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, has gained attention for its potential health applications. Recent studies suggest that psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy, may benefit individuals with depression, substance use problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The first phase III trials of psilocybin for depression began this year, with results expected as early as mid-2024.
The researchers found that commercial cultivars of Psilocybe cubensis have less genetic diversity compared to their wild counterparts. However, the Australian varieties, believed to be naturalized from introduced mushrooms, showed greater diversity, suggesting a recovery from the limited variation seen in commercialized cultivars.
The article, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed that unique gene variations related to psilocybin production in the naturalized mushrooms. These variations could be used to create designer shrooms with specific differences in psilocybin synthesis. The research team has founded a startup, Funky Fungus, to develop unique cultivars of psychedelic mushrooms for further research and drug development.
The findings highlight the potential of magic mushrooms as a natural source of psilocybin for drug development. The study’s authors believe that understanding how magic mushrooms produce other compounds impacting the psilocybin experience will be an exciting area of future research.
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