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DMT Found to Cause Birth Defects in Rats

By Morris Crowley on Saturday, 31 May 2014, hits: 15673

Almost everyone has heard the old urban legend that LSD causes chromosome damage. While that story was largely put to rest in the 1970s (Erowid 2002), new evidence links another visionary drug, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and its close relative N-methyltryptamine (NMT) to birth defects when consumed during pregnancy.

In the past decade, some researchers have been exploring the possibility that Mimosa tenuiflora as a ruminant forage plant is responsible for an increased rate of birth defects in livestock from northeastern Brazil. As many readers will know, M. tenuiflora (syn. M. hostilis) is a common source of DMT. In April, a study exploring this question found that both DMT and NMT increase the incidence of birth defects in a pregnant rat model (Gardner 2014).

The researchers fed pregnant rats with food pellets containing some M. tenuiflora leaf, seed, alkaloid extract of the leaf or seed, or purified DMT or NMT, then examined them for abnormalities at 21 days gestation. The dosage was not extreme: the greatest concentrations were in the leaf enhanced feed, which contained around 150 μg/g apiece of DMT and NMT, while the feeds enhanced with either pure DMT or NMT contained around 60 μg/g.

Cleft palates were observed to varying degrees in all groups except for the control. Skeletal abnormalities were observed in all groups, including the control, but occurred with significantly greater frequency in the experimental feed groups. For the DMT-fed rats, skeletal deformities were observed in approximately 48% of pups, while cleft palate issues were observed in approximately 6%. For the NMT-fed rats, skeletal deformities were observed in approximately 36% of pups, while cleft palate issues were observed in approximately 19%. The group fed a mixture of DMT and NMT (at 116 and 93 μg/g feed, respectively) showed the smallest incidence of skeletal malformations of the experimental feed groups, with approximately 13%; for comparison, the incidence in the control group was approximately 9%. The combined DMT and NMT also resulted in the highest incidence of cleft palate issues, approximately 57%, and was the only feed type where any pups exhibited hard palate damage.

There is one very curious feature about this study: the rats were not fed any monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) during the course of the study. Under ordinary circumstances, orally-administered DMT is rapidly metabolized by monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes before it can enter the bloodstream. Since no MAOIs were administered and the doses do not appear sufficient to saturate the MAO enzyme, it is most likely that any effects occurred not as a direct result of DMT or NMT, but as a result of their metabolites. The primary metabolite of both DMT and NMT is indole-3-acetic acid, and has been noted as `` mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells'' (Bioworld 2008).

It is also unclear why teratogenic effects would only have been noticed in rats and Brazilian cattle. They are far from the only animals that eat tryptamine-rich forage. Both sheep and cattle sometimes graze on Phalaris grass, and while they occasionally suffer phalaris staggers, no correlation between Phalaris and birth defects has been noted. And giraffes eat large quantities of tryptamine-rich Acacia foliage, apparently without issue.

What this means for humans is unclear. While the study didn't use outlandish quantities of DMT, the dosage schedule was still very different than in a DMT-using human. For the rats, DMT was consumed throughout the day as part of every meal. In humans, DMT is not typically used on a daily basis, much less on a perpetual basis. It is difficult to draw any equivalencies between sporadic use in humans and chronic low-level use in rats. Still, it raises some concerns for any women who consume DMT while pregnant.

And women do consume DMT while pregnant. In the Santo Daime church, it is not uncommon for pregnant women to drink the DMT-containing potion commonly known as ayahuasca. While this practice is not without controversy, neither is it clearly associated with any adverse outcomes (Labate 2011). Among indigenous South American groups, there appear to be no universal taboos against drinking ayahuasca while pregnant; as with so many traditions surrounding the potion, it varies dramatically from one culture to the next (Beyer 2008, Gorman 2007). At any rate, women considering drinking ayahuasca while pregnant, even in a religious or spiritual context, have some new food for thought.

 

About the Author

Morris Crowley is an independent writer who studies the history and chemistry of visionary plants and their interaction with humankind. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @morris_crowley.

 

References

Beyer, S. 2008. Women and Ayahuasca. Singing to the Plants. 8 Feb 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2014 from http://www.singingtotheplants.com/2008/02/women-and-ayahuasca/.

Bioworld. 2008. MSDS for indole-3-acetic acid. Last modified 12 Nov 2008. Retrieved 2 Jun 2014 from http://www.bio-world.com/msds/30631010/Indole-acetic-acid-IAA.html.

Erowid, E. 2002. Excerpt from: "Albert Hofmann's Collection of LSD and Psilocybin Related-Papers". Erowid Extracts 3: 12-15.

Gardner, D., F. Riet-Correa, D. Lemos, K. Welch, J. Pfister, and K. Panter. 2014. Teratogenic effects of Mimosa tenuiflora in a rat model and possible role of N-methyl- and N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Article ASAP. doi:10.1021/jf5005176.

Gorman, P. 2007. Ayahuasca and pregnancy. The Gorman Blog. 26 Feb 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2014 from http://thegormanblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/ayahuasca-and-pregnancy.html.

Labate, B. C. 2011. Consumption of ayahuasca by children and pregnant women: medical controversies and religious perspectives. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 43(1): 27-35. doi:10.1080/02791072.2011.566498.

 

Title image from Wikimedia Commons under the Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic license

 

Comments  

+6 # Infected 2014-06-01 18:01
Even though I pity the poor rats used in these studies. They should try feeding them an maoi or doing IV dmt to make sure there's no difference when it is metabolized via another pathway.
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+3 # Pandora 2014-06-01 20:27
What does NOT cause birth defects or problems to the fetus/baby when used in outlandish quantities during pregnancy?
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+3 # Morris 2014-06-03 04:12
Quoting Pandora:
What does NOT cause birth defects or problems to the fetus/baby when used in outlandish quantities during pregnancy?

Do you really regard these quantities as outlandish? That's what struck me about the study: they used a pretty conservative dose. The highest concentrations were in the feed that was made with 10% M. tenuiflora leaf. Leaf is about one tenth the potency of root bark. So that's equivalent to eating food made with 1% root bark.
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+1 # Synchro 2014-06-07 14:16
The acacias that the giraffes are eating could contain beta carbolines that act as maoi. I know some acacias do.
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-7 # GETACLUE 2014-06-07 21:52
HEY MORRIS, UM SINCE THE AVERAGE HUMAN DOSE OF DMT IS 30-50µg YES I WOULD HAVE TO SAY/AGREE THAT FEEDING A TINY LITTLE RAT 150µg (HOW MANY TIMES FOR HOW MANY DAYS?) IS A FUCKTON!!!!!!! ALSO I THINK THIS PART OF THE ARTICLE SAYS IT ALL "There is one very curious feature about this study: the rats were not fed any monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) during the course of the study. Under ordinary circumstances, orally-administ ered DMT is rapidly metabolized by monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes before it can enter the bloodstream. Since no MAOIs were administered and the doses do not appear sufficient to saturate the MAO enzyme, it is most likely that any effects occurred not as a direct result of DMT or NMT, "but as a result of their metabolites." The primary metabolite of both DMT and NMT is indole-3-acetic acid, and has been noted as `` mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells''"
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+9 # Morris 2014-06-09 06:19
µg = microgram
mg = milligram

The average human dose is not "30-50 µg"... it is more on the order of 30000-50000 µg.
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-9 # Rainbow 2014-06-08 23:22
I have 2 friends who consumed ayahuasca during pregnancy and the children are beautiful calm and wise. This article is misinformation.
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+8 # DanMaTêt 2014-06-17 13:04
Quoting Rainbow:
I have 2 friends who consumed ayahuasca during pregnancy and the children are beautiful calm and wise. This article is misinformation.

I have a friend who used to take coke, mdma, drink alcool, smoke and her 4 child are nice.
Does it mean it's misinformation about all those drugs ?
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+1 # Silver 2014-10-25 21:21
Rainbow,
you became defensive during reading and did not see what Morris was indicating is objective, and that he in fact brings light to several other issues surrounding the study that do not indicate that there is an issue per say, but merely worth thinking about....
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+1 # Dare 2015-06-03 23:12
Did they only consume it one time? Or more than once? And how far along were they? VERY curious about this subject. Also, how do you judge a baby to be wise? Again, genuinely interested!!
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+2 # Snozz 2014-06-09 16:41
Quoting Rainbow:
This article is misinformation.

How so?
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-3 # Respectively 2014-06-17 07:47
To Morris or whomever was saying it's relatively little. While the average dose of DMT in ayahuasca is around 24 mg they gave the rats 60-150 ug/g. That's 60-150 ug FOR EVERY GRAM THE RAT WEIGHS. So let's just extrapolate that a little further to find the equivalent avg consumed amount of DMT in ayahuasca in terms of ug/g. Since we have the avg amount of DMT in ayahuasca (24mg) we can divide that by the avg weight of a person(185 lbs), and have the equivalent amount. 24mg = 24,000 ug which divided by 185 lbs = about 83,914 grams. So that's 24,000 / 83,914 which gives us a grand total of, dum dum dum dum, about .286 ug/g. So yea even the lowest amount of 60ug/g is exponentially > .286 ug/g by about 210 times. So that's 210x more DMT than the avg person consumes fed how many times a day, everyday for months? Yea such a small amount...
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+6 # SnozzleBerry 2014-06-17 13:40
Quoting Respectively:
To Morris or whomever was saying it's relatively little. While the average dose of DMT in ayahuasca is around 24 mg they gave the rats 60-150 ug/g. That's 60-150 ug FOR EVERY GRAM THE RAT WEIGHS. So let's just extrapolate that a little further to find the equivalent avg consumed amount of DMT in ayahuasca in terms of ug/g. Since we have the avg amount of DMT in ayahuasca (24mg) we can divide that by the avg weight of a person(185 lbs), and have the equivalent amount. 24mg = 24,000 ug which divided by 185 lbs = about 83,914 grams. So that's 24,000 / 83,914 which gives us a grand total of, dum dum dum dum, about .286 ug/g. So yea even the lowest amount of 60ug/g is exponentially > .286 ug/g by about 210 times. So that's 210x more DMT than the avg person consumes fed how many times a day, everyday for months? Yea such a small amount...

First of all, please take a couple breaths and relax. Second of all, you are incorrect. The ratios discussed (ug/g) refer to the amounts in the feed, not the ratios in the rats. Had you taken some time to check the actual article, rather than flying off the handle, you would have seen this for yourself and would, perhaps, not have ended up looking as silly as you do. Here, so that you can see for yourself (in the event you don't have access), I've even uploaded the PDF of the study in question: http://www.filedropper.com/jf5005176

Note: Morris even included this in his article, but it appears you missed it:

Quoting Morris:
The dosage was not extreme: the greatest concentrations were in the leaf enhanced feed, which contained around 150 μg/g apiece of DMT and NMT, while the feeds enhanced with either pure DMT or NMT contained around 60 μg/g.
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+3 # universecannon 2014-06-17 20:35
If my math was right, and please feel free to correct me if not, as I'm rusty, this would roughly translate to a 175 pound human consuming between 400-700mg+ of a fairly even DMT/NMT mix a day, everyday for 20 days, while pregnant...if we are to assume the rats ate about 15g a day and weighed around 500g each.

A lot of medicines or benign or even beneficial chemicals, from what I understand, can cause complications in pregnancy (syrian rue being one example). So this study is definitely interesting and deserves more investigation but the public should be careful from extrapolating too much from it, obviously.

Has there been any studies done on children whose mothers had drank ayahuasca during pregnancy? From what I understand, this does happen among some in the amazon, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find some who had done this. But that also brings in the question of harmalas and if the absence of them here effected the results of this rat study.

To reiterate Morris: " Since no MAOIs were administered and the doses do not appear sufficient to saturate the MAO enzyme, it is most likely that any effects occurred not as a direct result of DMT or NMT, but as a result of their metabolites. The primary metabolite of both DMT and NMT is indole-3-acetic acid, and has been noted as `` mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells'' (Bioworld 2008)."
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+4 # Morris 2014-06-18 04:41
Looking at absolute dosage, you're essentially correct:

A 0.5 kg rat eating 15 g per day of 150 μg/g feed receives a total daily dose of 4.5 mg/kg. That translates to an 80 kg human eating 360 mg each of DMT and NMT per day.

But rats eat small amounts frequently through the day. Humans concentrate their eating into 3½ discrete meals. DMT is rapidly metabolized, so the rat's levels of metabolites would maintain a lower overall concentration in their body through the day, while humans will have a few distinct spikes. Even so, we're talking about just 120 mg each of DMT and NMT per meal (assuming three meals), which, in the absence of MAOIs, still does not strike me as an extreme amount.

And that's using the high end dosage from the study. Significant birth defects were seen with each compound individually (not combined) in the 60 μg/g feed, which translates to 1.8 mg/kg, or just 48 mg of either DMT or NMT with each meal in an 80 kg human.
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+4 # Morris 2014-06-18 04:42
The other way to look at it is based on the concentration of compounds in the food. We can justify this approach because differences in food consumption relative to body weight generally reflect differences in metabolic rates, which are relevant when examining chronic (rather than acute) administration.

An average human eats 1.3 kg of food per day. If that food contains 150 μg/g of DMT and NMT, then the person's total daily dose is 195 mg each of DMT and NMT throughout the day, or 65 mg each per meal. For feed containing 60 μg/g of a single compound (either NMT or DMT), the total daily dose is a mere 78 mg, or 26 mg per meal.

Whichever way you want to slice it, I stand by my assertion that these are not absurdly high doses.
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0 # universecannon 2014-06-18 13:00
Thanks for clarifying all that Morris!
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0 # Nathanial Anderson 2015-01-06 20:28
I'd like a test that shows if a vapor / smoke of dmt, or taking dmt with an maoi, has any negative effects, because dmt is suppose to be really useful as a medicine, especially for preventing defects caused by fluoride, but this research went the complete opposite direction by administering the drug incorrectly through digestion without an maoi, I think it's possible that because they did so there was an increased amount of "indole-3-aceti c acid" being produced in the pregnant rat bodies which destroyed any androgynous dmt in the systems of their bodies where it is necessary to deal with fluoride, so without any of that, fluoride cannot be handled properly and was likely the cause of the skeletal defects, as fluoride is known to do.
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0 # Aree 2015-06-17 15:35
Defects because the dose was too low lol
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