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Scientists create psilocybin using “homebrew” method and materials

Scientists have successfully produced a heap of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, using a “homebrew-style”.

According to a new study published in the journal, Bioengineered, the method of moonshine psilocybin could enable the production of large quantities for clinical use.

But before you go rushing out to buy a magic mushies homebrew kit, it’s not quite as easy as whipping up a yeasty, fermented beverage.

mushroom
image: The New York Times

This shoomshine probably won’t be as accessible to recreational users as the current foraged or home-grown varieties. The breakthrough is however a positive step for patients suffering from certain mental health disorders.

Numerous studies have recently indicated that there is significant therapeutic potential for psilocybin as a treatment for depression and other mental health conditions. This new technique mitigates the hurdle of economically unfeasible production, including growing and harvesting magic mushrooms in controlled conditions.

In order to circumvent the issue of slow production, scientists have successfully created genetically engineered microorganisms that can synthesise psilocybin quickly and cheaply.

The authors of this new study claim to have developed an extremely cost-effective method of producing psilocybin using a genetically edited strain of the humble E. coli bacteria. Magic Mushroom genes that code for the biosynthesis of psilocybin were inserted into the microbe’s genome before the researchers introduced them to the lab in which they would manufacture the compound.

The results were speedy:

“In less than [two] days, we successfully produced approximately 300 mg/L of psilocybin under simple conditions with easily sourced equipment and supplies,” write the study authors.

If you think you can head to Bunnings to grab some brewing equipment and hit up your local lab for some E. coli to cook up your own loopy soupy, think again.

The scientists suggest that the regulation of a compound called 4-hydroxyindole is a crucial component to the concoction that stimulates psilocybin production. Their hope is that Breaking Bad style psilocybin labs don’t pop up and impede the “homebrew” method that could make a valuable contribution to treating numerous mental health disorders.