In the truest sense of the word: excellent research
Wounds heal more effectively with bacteria-produced wound dressings that release active ingredients over seven days and an active ingredient that can relieve anxiety and depression derived from psychoactive fungi known as magic mushrooms. These are two new cures that have recently been awarded a coveted science prize.
The PHOENIX Pharmacy Science Prize was awarded to the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena in two out of four categories. The two research groups have asserted themselves in completely different categories. On the one hand, a biomaterial was selected which is produced by acetic acid bacteria and can be used as a wound dressing. On the other hand, a method was awarded which allows the active substance psilocybin to be produced from the “magic mushrooms” in the test tube and thus becomes accessible for pharmacy.
Will bacteria produce the patch of the future?
Nanocellulose is the name of the highly stable and promising biomaterial produced by acetic acid bacteria. “Nanocellulose consists of a three-dimensional network of fibres 20 to 100 nanometres thick, is highly stable, very heat-resistant and absolutely compatible with humans,” said Professor Dagmar Fischer, head of research, explaining the advantages of the biomaterial in a press release. In addition, the large surface area of the material offers enormous storage capacity for various active substances.
Success through optimization
Although nanocellulose is not a new discovery by the team, the researchers have succeeded in optimising the biomaterial so that it can be used for medical purposes. Since 99 percent of nanocellulose consists of water, it was difficult to regulate the release of the active substances, reports the research team. “We integrated the polymer poloxamer into the bacterial nanocellulose in the form of micelles and gel structures, thereby creating a hybrid system that can release the antiseptic drug octenidine in a controlled manner for up to a week,” said the professor explaining the solution.
What can nanocellulose be used for?
According to the researchers, the innovative biomaterial can contain active substances that can be released over a period of up to seven days. “On this basis, it is possible to produce modern wound dressings that need to be changed less frequently, which means less stress for the patient and time and cost savings in day-to-day clinical practice,” emphasises Fischer.
How “Magic Mushrooms” contribute to the Researcher Award
The second award went to the research group led by Professor Dr. Dirk Hoffmeister. The team was dedicated to the substance psilocybin, from the psychoactive fungi commonly known as “magic mushrooms”. “We are working on the molecule psilocybin – a substance that has become known mainly for its hallucinogenic effect and is regulated by the law on narcotics,” said Hoffmeister.
How can anxiety and depression be cured with the help of psychoactive fungi?
In fact, studies have shown that hallucinogenic fungi are able to treat depression. “Clinical studies have already shown that psilocybin helps treat-resistant depression and can alleviate anxiety disorders in cancer patients,” said Hoffmeister explaining the advantages of the drug. Hoffmeister and his team deciphered how the fungus produces psilocybin.
“Magic Mushrooms” from the test tube
“We have clarified the mechanisms and metabolic processes involved and know the genes of the fungus and the enzymes with which it produces the substance from a protein component,” said the professor. The team then developed a method in which genetically modified microorganisms produce large quantities of the active substance psilocybin in the laboratory. This enables psilocybin to be produced on a large scale. Hoffmeister sums up that this is the prerequisite for pharmaceutical interest in the drug.