A “neurohacking” cream that can help people learn musical instruments or languages faster could be available in the UK within five years – but British people may not want it, experts admit.
The neuropeptide dihexa was developed by Washington State University to combat Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment by slowing cell death and suppressing enzymes that destroy brain chemicals crucial for memory and learning.
It has been granted initial approval for use in the US following safety trials and is being prescribed to boost general mental performance. Dr Daniel Stickler, of Apeiron, a US biotech company, prescribes dihexa when clients want to achieve specific goals.
Speaking at the Biohackers Summit in Helsinki, Dr Stickler said: “Dihexa is a very short peptide, just six amino acids, and it can be rubbed into the skin. “It’s amazing for learning and memory. They are doing it in clinical trials for dementia and traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s but it’s also really good, if you’re learning to play the guitar or something, for creating that kind of mental response.”
Neuropeptides are small protein-like molecules that help neurons communicate, and influence brain activity.
They are part of a new kind of medicine called biologics, which seek to use small molecules already in the body to fix problems rather than introducing foreign drugs which can cause off-target impacts and side-effects.
But he told The Telegraph that early attempts to introduce the drugs into Britain had thrown up an unexpected obstacle. “When we were in London and meeting people, we were presenting this idea of improving human behaviour and we were finding that as long as there were other people worse off than them it was all OK, they just kept calm and carried on. That mindset was very different for us coming from the US where we have a very large percentage of people who think, ‘I know I’m good but I want to get better.’ So it’s been a foreign concept for people in Britain.”
But he added: “I think that is changing and although peptides are only legally prescribed in Australia and the United States right now, I think within the next five years you will see it coming into availability in the UK.”
Other neuropeptides currently being prescribed to boost brain power include cerebrolysin, which is derived from pigs’ brains and has been shown to be neuroprotective, enhancing learning and memory, increasing metabolism and decreasing amyloid beta – the stick plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Likewise, the neuropeptide nasal spray FGL is currently in phase 2 clinical trials and appears to help repair the myelin sheaths around nerves which are damaged in multiple sclerosis. MT-2, which is used chiefly for people hoping to boost their tan, is also now being taken to stimulate brainwaves.
And the brain molecule RG3, which is now also being prescribed, mimics exercise and increases the body’s ability to manage free radicals, the unstable atoms that damage cells, causing illness and ageing.
“You’re actually getting greater activation than you do with exercise,” said Dr Strickler. “This is pretty impressive. It’s a nasal spray so it’s simple to use.
“Biologics are things the body is familiar with, strings of amino acids that the body understands.
“They are very on-target, so when we give a biologic they go in and do what we intend them to do. With medicines the body reacts and we get side-effects and off-target effects. We’re going to see peptides overtake the pharmaceutical energy.”
Fabien Foelsch, of the biohacking company Braineffect, said people would increasingly need brain drugs and microdosing in the future to keep up with advancements in society.
“I believe that microdosing is able to provide us with the edge we need in the new neurosociety,” he told delegates. “Taking one to two grams of nicotine, I prefer in a gum product, has a good nootropic (brain boosting) effect.”
Source – Telegraph