Magic mushroom pain relief study
A UNIVERSITY of Reading lecturer has secured almost £100,000 to fund her chronic pain research over the next two years.
Dr Maria Maiaru won The Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award, which will help her explore how psilocybin, the psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms, may help treat pain.
The prize is presented to biomedical and health researchers in their first independent post, with the hope to launch careers of promising new investigators.
Dr Maiaru said: “Chronic pain is very common, with perhaps 20% of people experiencing it to some degree.
“Unfortunately most patients do not receive adequate pain relief. And even when pain relief is available, the drugs are often not ideal for long-term pain management.
“Opiates, for example, work well for pain but carry enormous risk of addiction and overdose if taken for more than a few days.”
Psilocybin has received considerable interest due to evidence suggesting it can reduce symptoms of depression in patients who are resistant to antidepressants.
Its efficacy in treating chronic pain has not been extensively studied yet, but there are suggestions that it can reduce phantom limb pain and migraines.
Dr Maiaru plans to initially focus on animal models of chronic pain, tracking behavioural and biological changes in mice, following psilocybin treatment.
These results will be compared with responses to antidepressant drugs.
The project will also use brain imaging to monitor the drug’s impact in areas of the brain known to be altered by chronic pain.
The expectation is that psilocybin can modulate these regions and reduce the amount of nerve pain someone with a longterm pain condition experiences. The effect of psilocybin is welldocumented to include rebalancing of brain activity in rodents and humans.
Dr Suzanne Candy, director of biomedical grants and policy at the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “Together with our partners, we are fortunate to be able to support this talented group of researchers doing excellent science.
“Our strategic ambition is to help create an open and progressive research sector. By investing in these individuals and teams, we are broadening the range of people and disciplines engaged in biomedical and health research, across all regions of the UK, and globally.
“We look forward to supporting our award recipients and seeing how their research has a positive impact on the health of people everywhere.”