Traditional African psychedelic botanical medicine inspired two new drugs for treating addiction and depression.
For thousands of years, Ibogaine has been used in shamanic rituals as a hallucinogen, to curb hunger and fatigue, and even as an aphrodisiac.
However, the main active ingredient, ibogaine, Tabernante Iboga, A West African shrub that grows in Congo and Angola, it is deadly and can cause heart problems even in small doses.
Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have now modeled the pharmacology of ibogaine to develop two potential new drug candidates for treating addiction and depression.
The “addiction” part is very interesting. Addiction rates for opioid analgesics in the United States are very high. Sales of these drugs have tripled since the 1990s, but overdose deaths have risen proportionately.
In the United States, there is great interest in studying ibogaine as a way to ameliorate opioid withdrawal symptoms. One observational study found that ibogaine was “associated with substantial effects on opioid withdrawal symptoms and drug use in subjects who had failed other treatments.”
Inspired by the effects of ibogaine on the serotonin transporter (SERT), the UCSF team screened over 200 million compounds with the same effects on SERT as ibogaine.
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“Our compound mimics one of ibogaine’s many pharmacological effects and, at least in mice, reproduces the most desirable effects on behavior,” said lead author Brian Shoichet, PhD.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, European and American physicians experimented with the use of ibogaine to treat various ailments, but ibogaine never gained wide acceptance and was eventually outlawed in many countries. I was.
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Dr. Shoichet explained that part of the problem is that ibogaine interferes with many aspects of human biology, but that a 200-fold reduction in dose could benefit patients. bottom.
Shoishett submitted the structures of both new molecules to chemical manufacturing company Sigma-Aldrich with the goal of allowing other scientists to test them further while continuing to search for more precise molecules.
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