Better Than Good

August 19, 2011

Rheanna Sand


So, I've not been one to shy away from promoting the use of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "ecstasy") for mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder. I also believe that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD or "acid") is useful for schizophrenia patients, that cannabis is a miracle cure for chemotherapy sickness, and that the resveratrol in a glass of red wine a day can keep your arteries clean. Not everyone supports using so-called "recreational" drugs in this way, however.

But what if you could change that molecule in red wine just enough so that it cured heart disease? Or turn LSD into a powerful antiviral? That is essentially what a group of researchers has done with ecstasy - they've gone in an changed around some of the atoms and made what we call a "derivative" of the molecule. One derivative has an incredibly potent cancer-fighting ability, at least in a test tube full of lyphoma and myeloma.



So how does it work? The drug is attracted to the fats in the membrane (outer wall) of the cancer cells, and makes them a bit "soapy" and weak - more so than healthy cells - so they die. But it remains to be seen whether this will translate from the lab into a living organism. Animal, then human trials will be needed before this hits the market in any way, which could be ten years or longer. In the meantime, these researchers (probably backed by a pharmaceutical company) will be searching for better derivatives. The more derivatives are made and tested, the more likely it is that new molecules can be designed to have certain properties.

Hmm… designing a modified ecstasy molecule that can have ANY desired effects? Sounds like the perfect underground career for a budding pharmacologist. I just wish I knew one.



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