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Magic mushrooms could soon be mass produced
Photography Hatham, via Unsplash

Scientists are harvesting magic mushroom chemicals for the first time

The psychoactive compound found in the drug might eventually be able to be mass-produced

Previous studies have revealed that magic mushrooms have the capability to relieve symptoms of anxiety and PTSD, as well as untreatable depression. Now, in breakthrough research, scientists have highlighted a potential new way of mass-producing the psychoactive compound found in the drug.

According to a new study published in the Metabolic Engineering journal, researchers have shown that psilocybin – which puts the ‘magic’ in magic mushrooms – can be made by bioengineered bacteria. A team from the University of Miami utilised a technique known as metabolic engineering, in which biological cells are modified and cultivated to produce a specific chemical of interest. 

While numerous reports have shown the positive effects of magic mushrooms, the drug is illegal in most countries, and the production of medical-grade psilocybin is neither cheap nor easy. Andrew Jones, one of the study’s authors, said in a press release that to mass produce the substance through magic mushroom farming “would require extensive real estate and time”, while “alternative synthetic chemical production methods are used but are very expensive”. The newly discovered method is a step forward in demonstrating how the drug can be produced sustainably and economically from a biological source.

Describing the process, Jones said: “We are taking the DNA from the mushroom that encodes its ability to make this product and putting it in E. coli. It’s similar to the way you make beer, through a fermentation process. We are effectively taking the technology that allows for scale and speed of production and applying it to our psilocybin producing E. coli.”

He continued: “What’s exciting is the speed at which we were able to achieve our high production. Over the course of this study we improved production from only a few milligrams per litre to over a gram per litre.”

In May, Denver led the way by decriminalising shrooms, and now this research will hopefully provide other legislators with further scientific backing that magic mushrooms can have a positive effect on mental health. 

“Psychedelics may have beneficial effects on neuronal functioning and brain function, and facilitate a connection with the self, with others, and the natural world,” drug policy reformer Amanda Feilding previously told Dazed Beauty. “The psychedelic mystical or peak experience can provide a sense of levity or perspective to better view one’s life and see what might be good to change about it.”

With the possibility of magic mushrooms being mass produced on the horizon, the benefits of the drug may soon be impossible to ignore.