Scientists genetically engineer E. coli to produce the psychedelic psilocybin

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/30/scientists-genetically-enginee.html

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Oh man. Those periodic lettuce recalls are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

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And what is wrong to use the actual mushroom fot the tests?

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Big pharma can’t patent mushrooms. They CAN patent mutated ecoli.

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Any know if it’s the mushrooms themselves which are illegal, versus the psychoactive components? Because this could potentially circumvent the law.

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Also, psychedelic mushrooms are illegal most places and E. coli isn’t. At least not yet.

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Now when people get high and say, “that’s some good shit,” they will mean it literally.

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Ease of manufacture and sourcing would be my first guess. Mushrooms take time to grow, and can be fussy about habitat and conditions; bacteria, less so. Psilocin and psilocybin are schedule I drugs, and not legal to prescribe, sell, or buy, so the researchers would need to grow their own crops of mushrooms if they wanted to work with the compounds.

I’d wager they can more easily control dosage and quality, also. I do think it’s worth exploring if there are other compounds in the mushrooms that affect the quality of the drug, as we’ve discovered with THC and other cannabinoid compounds.

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Depends on the jurisdiction. In the U.S., it’s the psilocin/psilocybin that’s scheduled. Mushrooms are considered a container, so are also illegal to possess, sell, transport, etc. Which is why, barring state laws to the contrary, mushroom spores are not illegal in and of themselves.

In the Netherlands, the mushrooms are illegal, but psilocybin-containing truffles are not.

Drug laws are weird, man.

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I am honestly surprised this is only being done now

Such E. Coli strain could prove problematic if it enters someone’s gut biome.

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Let’s produce a microorganism that could easily infect a human being if it got loose in the wild, and could never be eradicated if it did. What could possibly go wrong?

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E Coli is widely used for all kinds of research and we’ve yet to have one break out into the wild. It’s not impossible for it to happen but it’s a weird hill to die on, considering this strain is pretty harmless compared to other organisms we have in labs right now.

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Usually they do mutated e-coli with versions that have the ability to produce some nutrients removed, so that it requires a specific culture medium to grow.

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This has been a long time coming. Screw researchers, once someone makes a version of this that makes acid, anyone will be able to make it.

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So pretty rainbows while blowing it out both ends? Sign me up… I think.

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https://cen.acs.org/articles/96/i11/Looking-cheaper-routes-malaria-medicines.html

Also E coli is the workhorse for genetic manipulation, so if they want to modify the gene, easier to do in E coli than the mushroom. They’ve been making insulin in E coli since 1978, so as you note they’ve worked out a lot of the kinks in growing and harvesting.

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"Scaled up, the new method could produce psilocybin for potential therapeutic use."

:confused:

Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. There are no commercial uses for psilocybin.

Currently, psilocybin is not available to doctors in the clinical setting because it is listed as a Schedule I drug by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Researchers may only be able to get access to the illegal compound for the study through special waivers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Other drugs found in Schedule I include [marijuana]. In order for psilocybin to be prescribed for patients, it would have to be reclassified as a Schedule II medication, meaning it has a currently accepted medical use, but with severe restrictions due to addiction potential.

https://www.drugs.com/illicit/psilocybin.html

So, if you gather the mushrooms and use them on your own…?? But if Big Pharma can monetize it… well… that’s different.

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