Log in
updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

FlynnsHarp logo 042016

Naturopath eyes ancient Amazon drug as possible depression treatment

 They are called "Ayahuasca Circles." And in with-it places like New York, Washington, Chicago, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and, yes, Seattle, the in-crowds are being drawn to evening gatherings to share a tea made from a natural drug with ancient Amazon ties that takes them on group "trips" where spiritual revelations occur.

For those old enough to remember the sixties and Timothy Leary's "tune in, turn on and drop out" call to LSD gatherings, or the cocaine parties of the '80s, the tea-sharing at the ayahuasca circles may have a familiar ring.

But Leanna Standish, a Seattle naturopathic physician and prominent medical researcher, is convinced that ayahuasca (aiya was' ka), which she refers to as "a vast, unregulated global experiment," is going to "change the face of western medicine."

And with that conviction guiding her, she has sought and been granted conditional approval by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), pending approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to begin manufacture and distribution for research on potential medical uses for ayahuasca.

DEA approval is needed because the basic ingredient in ayahuasca is DMT (dimethyltryptamine), DMT is illegal in the U.S., classified as a Schedule 1 drug for its likelihood of being abused. Tiny amounts of DMT apparently exist in parts of the brain associated with visual dreaming.

Getting FDA approval for a Phase I trial to pursue medical use of ayahuasca is considered a significant accomplishment and is partly a credit to Standish's reputation, as medical director of the Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center and researcher at University of Washington Medical School.

And unlike the LSD "trips" of the '60s, or as one authority described the gatherings two decades later as where "cocaine expressed and amplified the speedy, greedy ethos of the nineteen-eighties," ayahuasca devotees say it reflects our present moment--what some call the Age of Kale." They say "It is a time characterized by wellness cravings, when many Americans are eager for things like mindfulness, detoxification, and organic produce, and we are willing to suffer for our soulfulness."

I learned of Standish's interest in the drug from an article in a September issue of the New Yorker, titled "The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale," with the headline "How ayahuasca, an ancient Amazonian hallucinogenic brew, became the latest trend in Brooklyn and Silicon Valley." And, I might add, the Seattle area.

Ayahuasca enthusiasts frequently use the language of technology, which may have entered the plant-medicine lexicon because so many people in Silicon Valley are apparently devotees. Thus technology-driven references like "cleansing the mother board," or "wiping the hard drive clean" crop up.
The New Yorker article by a long-time, award-winning writer for the magazine, who included the experience of participating in an ayahausca circle, quoted Standish at some length on the medical-research aspects of the drug.

Standish noted that "many people are going from all over the world to South America, part of a virtual drug-tourism industry, suggesting what I think is a huge need in Western Culture for this type of healing medicine."

The New Yorker article notes that vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion. According to the writer "this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one's life." 

"Now, a critical mass of L.A.'s urban hippies are gathering in groups and projectile vomiting (and worse) on their way to enlightenment.," the writer says.

But Standish has been drawn to what she perceives as the medicinal potential. 
"I am very interested in bringing this ancient medicine from the Amazon Basin into the light of science," she said.

Her key initial scientific focus is in "creating a new treatment for depression," which she describes as "a pandemic in this country and in Western culture,"

She says she has started her own company, Standish Medicine Inc., as the vehicle to guide the research, once she gets the final okay from DEA and Bastyr's Institutional Review Board, and adds that she has some potential investors "interested in helping me with a new therapy for depression."

 
Continue reading
  1633 Hits
  0 Comments
1633 Hits
0 Comments

Naturopath Laurie Mischley's focus on intranasal treatment of Parkinson's

Laurie Mischley is a naturopathic physician at Bastyr University whose years-long research seeking to change the course of Parkinson’s Disease has quietly attracted both national and internatonal interest.

And now the results of two recent research projects relating to her focus on the relationship of glutathione(GSH) to the disease and her intranasal approach to treatment are likely to mean interest in her work will extend beyond academia and foundations into mainstream awareness.

The most recent was publication this week of her research findings from a project funded with a grant from Michael J. fox Foundation that, in essence, glutathione provides a “marker” for Parkinson’s Disease.

The study results showed that the lower the blood glutathione the worse the Parkinson’s, meaning, meaning that testing for low blood GSM might be a signal for the presence of Parkinson’s Disease.

“In essence, we can say now that the absence of glutathione leaves the brain on fire and it will be consumed unless the GSH is restored,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a marker, not unlike cholesterol level and heart disease, that we could modulate rather than simply watching the disease progress?”

The other recent development was a team project, with Mischley as lead investigator working with scientists from Washington State University, that determined, through use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), that glutathione had reached the brain and how to measure it.

Glutathione, called by some “the mother of all antioxidants” and “the master detoxifier,” prevents damage to important cellular components. The body makes its own but its depletion is known to relate to an array of neuro/pshyche diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

“People have been suggesting for more than three decades that glutathione deficiency plays a role in diseases of the brain and central nervous system that finding a way to augment it might be a good idea,” Mischley said. “What we just demonstrated is that squirting it up your nose works to raise brain levels of GSH.”

Explaining the study, Mischley said it showed a boost of almost 250 percent in the  glutathione in the brain after 45-to-60 minutes.

”Our results showed that all groups improved over the three months of use, including placebo, enough to warrant further study of glutathione for both symptom management and disease modification,” Mischley said.

Left for a follow-up study, which she said “ideally will be off the ground by the end of the year,” is determining issues like whether the glutathione level continue to rise? How long before it peaks? What happens following multiple doses?

Mischley returned at the end of June from the 20th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorders in Berlin where her research into the intranasal delivery of glutathione for Parkinson’s patients was given high visibility.

The challenge Mischley talks about candidly is frustration about making the glutathione therapy, intranasal injections of it on a regular basis, available to PD patients, “the formula and delivery need to be improved and partnerships with industry forged.”

“If we had a company to accelerate the research, I sincerely believe we could have the first disease-modifying therapy for PD available in 3-5 years, if cards are played correctly,” Mischley said.

“I came into this years ago to cure Parkinson’s,” she said. “I ndver thought of starting a pharma company, “But the fact is the way I need to proceed if I am to serve my patients and prospective patients is to start one.”

Mischley, 42, was in pre-med studies at Penn State University in the mid-‘90s, assuming that medical school lay ahead when she decided to switch her major to nutrition.

“I was told nutrition is not a science,” she said. “That was my reality check in what I was up against. It was like I was more interested in being a detective trying to solve a mystery and conventional medicine knowing what it is and hiding it.”

Her focus on nutritional medicine and now on Parkinson’s Disease is in line with her philosophy that “if people don’t wonder, they can’t learn. You have to be able to incite curiosity.”

In seeking out a place to study nutritional medicine, she says she found Bastyr had d the only nutritional medicine program, so she came to the campus of what has become the Harvard of naturopathic medicine and got her degree as a naturopathic doctor, and subsequently a PhD and masters of public health at University of Washington.

In 2010 she was awarded a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, one of three researchers in the country to receive what was described as a career-transition award, explaining “they thought it was a good idea to train individuals with a clinical doctorate in complementary/ alternative medicine to do research.”

Her research with glutathione and intranasal delivery is helping spur the growing focus on intranasal delivery of drugs destined to address neurological disorders from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to chronic pain and migraine. 

In fact, that increasing medical interest in intranasal delivery for drugs focused on disorders of the brain and central nervous system is attracting key angel-investor interest to a rapidly growing Seattle company that makes intranasal devices.

Impel NeuroPharma, which Mischley describes as being “at the top of the food chain” for manufacture of intranasal devices, has already raised millions and scould be key to creating a new biotech category, maybe called drug delivery technology,  for which this area could be at the forefront.

Thus Impel and its co-founder and CEO, Michael Hite, will be the focus of next week’s Flynn’s Harp.

 

Continue reading
  2318 Hits
  0 Comments
2318 Hits
0 Comments

52°F

Seattle

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 63%

Wind: 14 mph

  • 24 Mar 2016 52°F 42°F
  • 25 Mar 2016 54°F 40°F
Banner 468 x 60 px