There is Hope for Diabetes Treatment with Plant Hallucinogen

The Plant Hallucinogen is a Hopeful Treatment for Diabetes. A powerful molecular cocktail that contains a compound from Ayahuasca stimulates insulin -producing cells to grow rapidly.

Modern technology has revealed that the psychoactive drug harmine is one of the components behind these mystic experiences. This ingredient would one day be used to treat diabetes.

While such a cure may be far away, scientists took another step towards it by combining naturally occurring harmine and a compound made in a lab. According to Cell Metabolism, December 20th, findings, both the beta-producing and insulin-producing cells can work together to replicate at unprecedented rates.

Type 1 diabetes arises when the body turns on these cells and destroys them. Type 2 diabetes develops when these same cells wear out and can no longer make insulin. Both of these effects are irreversible because we will only ever be able to use the beta cells that we made in our early years.

The possibility of a new treatment to treat diabetes could come true if this combination of compounds is added to the arsenal. Justin Annes is an assistant professor at Stanford University in medicine and endocrinology. He also studies beta cell proliferation with another investigator group. "Looking back over 10 years, we wondered whether human beta cells can even be coaxed to dividing," Annes said. What started out as a fantasy is now a goal, which may become a reality in the future.

A 2015 study that showed that beta cell growth was promoted by harmine in a dish, one stop along the way to this reality. Although it is a promising start, Andrew Stewart (scientific director of the Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism Institute at Mount Sinai), says that the results are a bit slow for anyone who requires a replacement population.

Stewart and colleagues have shown that harmine can be combined with synthetic inhibitors of other molecule to increase the rate by 5-8 percent, on average. Some growth methods may even get as high as 16% Stewart states that this is not the only combination possible. Other groups are also working on other pairings. Annes and colleagues discovered several compounds that have similar promises for encouraging insulin-producing cell to reproduce.

Stewart states that while we may all be competing in the end, "we all know one another so we share reagents, and ideas." Different people have discovered different drugs that make beta cell replication." Stewart says his lab selected harmine to be their first screening, though he doesn't consider harmine superior.

Another group of researchers pulled harmine out of a molecular maze in 2006 to search for chemical compounds that could interact with Down syndrome protein. Study after study showed that harmine plays a role in many systems of the body, including the brain. This explains in part why ayahuasca has had such an impact on the early adopters.

Harmine is known to interfere with the enzyme dual-specificity tyrosine regulated kinase1A (DYRK1A). DYRK1A, like harmine works in a variety of tissues. One function it plays is shaping the central nervous systems during embryonic growth. Because of its role in Down syndrome, it was initially identified. Its routine job is to apply chemical tags on molecules to turn them on or off.

Another molecule is part of the synergizing pairing and inhibits a number of proteins of the transforming growth factors-beta suprafamily (TGFbSF). These proteins, like DYRK1A are involved in a wide range of bodily processes including cell proliferation.

Stewart and his team discovered TGFbSF, DYRK1A in cells of benign pancreatic tumors known as insulinomas. Their idea was that, if they were able to identify the causes of these tumors' growth, then they could use that information for normal beta-cell growth. They discovered TGFbSF and DYRK1A-related targets.

The inhibition of these proteins in human beta cells can shut down the cell regulators responsible for preventing cancer cell growth out of control. TGFbSF and harmine, which release this brake, and DYRK1A as well as TGFbSF in various tissues are both active in treatment. Annes says that there is still a lot of work to be done before the medications are safe for human use. She also believes it's reasonable to worry about possible cancer.

Klaus Kaestner is a professor of genetics at Penn Diabetes Research Center. He reported in 2016 that harmine stimulates the division of many hormone-producing cell types, even other pancreatic cells.

Stewart and his team are currently going through several potential chemical tags, which could help to guide the inhibitors towards the correct location. Stewart says that for the moment, he and his colleagues are Amazon employees and possess a lot of packages. We know they belong to you but don't have an address.

Type 1 diabetes poses another hurdle. Stewart says that even though the immune system kills these cells and targets them in type 1 diabetes, some beta cells can still be found. Uncertain is whether a new cell population derived from these cells will attract even more immune destruction. Stewart says that if the harmine-TGFbSF inhibitor combination ever makes it to trials, the population it might initially suit best are those who have type 2 diabetes. It would then be possible to move from the South American rainforest to clinical treatment.