DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a potent endogenous psychedelic present in the brain of humans and other mammals. Since its discovery by the Hungarian psychiatrist Stephen Szára in 1956 its physiological role still remains largely unknown. A recent study performed by a Hungarian team led by Ede Frecska and Jordi Riba is the first to show that the DMT protects brain and immune cells under stress.
The research team team took three types of human cells - neurons derived from pluripotent stem cells, monocyte-derived macrophages and dendritic cells. They then restricted the cells’ supply of oxygen (hypoxia) . A few hours of severe hypoxia reliably kills the majority of neurons, and a significant proportion of the immune cells.
The scientists then tested whether DMT could protect the cells from this fate. And indeed, they found that DMT-treated cell cultures had a much higher survival rate! Not only that, but the amount of DMT needed to protect the cells was relatively low (10-50μM for neurons and 50 μM for the dendrites and macrophages).
The authors of the study conclude: “Our results suggest a novel and important role of DMT in human cellular physiology and point out to the relevance of DMT-mediated Sig-1R modulation in future therapies concerning hypoxia/ischemia-related pathologies.”
If these results are applicable to other stressors and replicated in humans, the implications are huge. DMT could be administered to save neurones that would otherwise die from exposure to harmful events, such as heart attack or stroke as well as damage caused by neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. DMT could be a life-saving agent, administered in order to give cells, and the bodies they belong to, a second chance at life.