There’s no question that serotonin is a powerful chemical in our body. It’s a natural mood regulator that makes you feel emotionally stable and also helps with sleeping, eating, digestion and a host of other functions.
It is a neurotransmitter that enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other and therefore influences a range of physical and psychological systems.
Serotonin receptors are G-protein-coupled receptors and are the target of a variety of pharmaceutical drugs because they produce a myriad of physiological effects in humans.
Ultimately, serotonin impacts every part of your body.
Despite this, the relationship between this chemical messenger and many bodily functions remains unclear. For this reason, scientists are eager to unlock some of the secrets of serotonin and examine whether it plays a bigger role than we think in organs outside the brain and in chronic disorders and diseases.
That’s because only 5-10 per cent of serotonin is actually produced in the brain, 90-95 per cent is produced in the rest of the body, especially the small intestine.
Some of the questions Nova’s research will be trying to answer are – What role does serotonin play in peripheral body organs such as the intestines, liver and pancreas, to name a few. Is serotonin produced by bacteria in the gut? Are these bacteria the cause of neuroinflammatory disorders, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, autism spectrum disorder and many others. We intend to research and answer these questions and issues.
We know our brain and digestive tract are deeply connected, and research is suggesting that the bacteria living in our gut may influence some neurological diseases. We’re trying to better understand how the gut-brain axis communicates and how we can best treat any issues that are present.
So, how do psychedelic mushrooms fit into this research? The main psychoactive compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms is psilocybin. The psychedelic effects are believed to emerge through stimulation of serotonin receptors by psilocybin’s active metabolite, psilocin. Once psilocin reaches the brain, it prevents the reabsorption of serotonin, as well as binds to and stimulates receptors in the brain.
Nova will be focused on studying the role of serotonin in various parts of the body and how we can use psilocybin to help correct serotonin problems.
There is a common misperception that psychedelics only work on brain cells and brain tissues. We believe they may play an important role in other bodily functions and will be looking for receptors in peripheral body organs that react to psilocybin and tryptamine derivatives.
By gaining a better understanding of these connections and establishing hard clinical biomarkers that prove the efficacy of psychedelics, and not just rely on subjective behavioral changes, we can develop new treatment options for people struggling with chronic diseases and disorders that are unmet medical needs in our society that take a significant toll on families and the broader community.