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Former NFL doctor joins program using psychedelics to treat brain injuries

DMT being used to treat TBIs.

Los Angeles Chargers v Washington Football Team
Head injuries are a constant cause of concern in the NFL and MMA.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc. have announced, via a press release, that they have appointed former NFL Nuerological Player Care Safety Director Dr. David Brody to their advisory board.

Algernon is currently developing methods of treating traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) with N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, a substance better known as DMT.

DMT is compound that appears naturally in many plants and animals. It is most known for its psychedelic properties and is a key ingredient in ayahuasca, which is used by many Indigenous people who live in and around the Amazon rain forest.

DMT offers similar effects to those provided by LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, with those who imbibe reporting hallucinations and intense feelings of euphoria.

“Algernon has identified a novel approach to potentially treat TBI patients focused on neuroplasticity, which would be welcome in a clinical environment without any approved pharmacological options,” said Dr Brody in the release. “I am excited to help further the science and work with them on advancing the DMT research TBI program through clinical trials.”

Algernon has claimed it will be the first company globally to use DMT to treat TBIs in humans (per bctechnology). The company expects to enter phase two of their clinical trials later this year.

Algernon is also involved in clinical trials of DMT to treat strokes. Part of the reason Algernon began exploring the use of DMT for TBIs is because there are many commonalities between symptoms of stroke and TBIs, including neuroinflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction.

Other reasons why Algernon are hopeful that DMT will prove effective in treating TBIs is because DMT increases the production of a protein known to play a key role in neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reconfigure itself when damaged). Algernon also notes that DMT has already shown a therapeutic potential for dealing with psychological and cognitive problems, both of which can result from TBI.

TBIs are caused by blows to the body which force the head to move violently. This movement can cause the brain to shift within the skull. When the skull shifts back and forth, and collides with the inside of the skull, this can cause shearing of blood vessels in the brain, leading to brain hemorrhages. Many boxers and MMA fighters have died from brain hemorrhages (such as Tim Hague and Joao Carvalho). This type of injury is often observed when a fighter is knocked unconscious and then falls to the ground, with their head slamming back to the canvas.

Mild traumatic injuries, or mTBIs, are caused when the brain rotates within the skull. That rotation effect causes a group of symptoms which are collectively referred to as ‘concussion’.

All blows to the head, whether they produce symptoms of concussion or not, cause the brain to release a protein called tau. Tau secretions, which eat away at vital brain structures, cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms of CTE include depression, cognitive impairment and suicidiality.

About the author: Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. (full bio)