Scientists have discovered a way to grow a cancer-curing mushroom in a lab for the first time — in what could be a breakthrough.
Previous research has shown that the cordyceps fungus — which kills insects and sprouts from their bodies — can help kill cancer cells.
But due to the mushroom’s rarity in the wild and the difficulties of growing them in the lab, experts have never been able to mass produce it and test it on patients.
Now a team from Korea and Egypt has figured out how to grow the elusive fungi with various insect species as hosts in a controlled environment.
The research team hopes that by successfully growing the fungi in the lab in the same way they would in the wild, scientists can produce the compound cordycepin more effectively and cheaper for use as a cancer treatment.
In the wild, cordyceps infect and kill insects. The remains of the insect and fungus are usually collected by hand, dried and used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory diseases and fatigue, among other things.
The fungus has been shown to be useful in killing cancer cells, including those of ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia and bladder cancer.
The cordyceps mushroom excels at infecting and killing insects. When it infects a host, it invades and eventually replaces the host tissue.
It has become famous for creating “zombie” ants by infecting and growing the insect’s body, invading its muscle cells.
As the infection spreads, the “zombie” ants are forced to leave their nests in favor of a more humid climate.
Then they climb on a plant stem and clamp the jaws to the underside of a leaf and wait for death.
Several days after the ant dies, the fungus sends out a fruiting body through the base of the ant’s head, turning its body into a launch pad from which it can spread further.
The family includes 600 different species, some of which have cancer-fighting properties.
Cordyceps has been proven to stimulate apoptosis or death of cancer cells, including those of ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia and bladder cancer.
The treatment of various cancer cells with cordycepin, an important bioactive component in cordyceps, effectively induces cell death and delays the onset of carcinoma cells. carcinogenic properties.
a 2017 study of cordyceps as a treatment for bladder cancer, for example, found that the fungus induced carcinoma cell death by activating A3 adenosine receptors, or cell membrane proteins that have been found to be overexpressed in a wide range of cancer types.
In a 2005 study researching the mushroom’s effect on the diagnosis of leukemia, a team of doctors in Korea found that cancer cells treated with cordyceps extract inhibited the growth of the cells, slowing their spread.
Meanwhile another study conducted by Korean researchers in 2013 pointed to the role that cordyceps militaris blocked the growth of prostate carcinoma cells.
What are these killer mushrooms and what are they good for?
Cordyceps are types of parasitic fungi that infect and kill insects
The genus includes 600 different species, some of which have cancer-fighting properties
Cordyceps has been shown to kill many types of carcinoma cells, including those that cause ovarian, prostate, and colorectal cancer, as well as leukemia
The mushrooms may also help recover from the stress of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments
Cordyceps is thought to increase the body’s production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an essential compound for supplying energy to the muscles
They’ve also been shown to reduce fatigue and boost strength and sex drive
Cordyceps can also keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range by mimicking the action of insulin and can help treat diabetes.
‘Cordycepin is one of the cytotoxic nucleoside analogues with complementary therapeutic activities in anti-proliferation and anti-metastasis in cancer cells,’ said dr. Mi Kyeong Lee, senior author of the new research on ways to grow mushrooms in a lab setting.
The team comes from Chungbuk National University and Korea University in Korea and Minia University in Egypt.
Cordyceps are some of the most commonly used ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory diseases and cancers.
But only recently has the Western scientific community begun investigating the medicinal properties of the fungus in human cell studies.
The mushrooms are rare in the wild and growing them in the lab on grains such as brown rice has proved challenging.
The level of cordycepin was very low when it was collected from the fungus grown on grains.
It is suspected that the protein content of brown rice grains was not high enough to feed the fungus.
That’s why a team of biologists from Korea and Egypt began cultivating the compound on edible insects, including crickets, silkworm pupae, mealworms, grasshoppers, white-spotted flour beetle larvae and Japanese rhinoceros beetles. And certain insects served as better meals for the mushrooms than others.
The cordyceps grew greatest on mealworms and silkworm pupae and least well on beetle larvae and grasshoppers. But the largest mushrooms didn’t necessarily produce the highest concentrations of cordycepin.
The cordyceps grown on the Japanese rhinoceros beetles produced the highest levels of cordycepin, 34 times more than the levels produced on silkworm pupae, which performed the worst.
“Cordyceps grown on edible insects contains about 100 times more cordycepin compared to cordyceps grown on brown rice,” said Dr. Lee.
Tuesday’s study is a good first step toward better understanding the fungus’ cancer-fighting properties and how to make it easier to cultivate, the authors say.
dr. Lee said: ‘The cultivation method of cordyceps proposed in this study will allow the production of cordycepin to be more effective and cheaper.’
“However, securing edible insects is not yet sufficient for scaling up to an industrial level,” said Dr. Lee. ‘It is also thought that more efficient production is possible through the use of other insects, which needs to be demonstrated by further research.’