It’s no secret that LSD is one hell of a drug.
It has such a profound effect on our brains that the drug has been touted as a treatment for certain mental-health conditions, including PTSD and depression.
Scientists have found that LSD molecules bind to serotonin receptors in the brain, altering the brain’s chemical pathways. In turn, this can lead to hallucinations and intense emotions.
But scientists are still studying exactly how the mechanism works. One team of researchers just discovered a new clue.
Using X-rays to determine the LSD molecule’s crystal structure, the scientists discovered how exactly it binds to the serotonin receptor.
It all comes down to one amino acid, a single building block of the protein that LSD binds to.
As LSD settles into a “pocket” in the serotonin receptor, the amino acid shifts position, allowing the pocket to expand.
The LSD molecule also creates a “lid” over the serotonin receptor, which is why trips can last hours.
Some researchers have advocated for LSD as a treatment for conditions like cluster headaches, anxiety, and depression since the mid-19th century.
But to fully understand its therapeutic potential, first scientists have to know every intimate detail about how the molecule affects our brains.
With this new finding, scientists are getting closer to harnessing LSD’s powerful effects to potentially help people in need.
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