Chinese Researchers Show Fungus Used in Traditional Medicine Could Fight Cancer
Chinese scientists have found a link between two anti-cancer compounds regarding the fungus cordyceps militaris. The first is called cordycepin, first revealed as cordyceps militaris in 1950; however, back then its interaction was unknown. The second is pentostatin, first found from a bacterium and developed as a treatment for leukemia and other cancers in the 1990s.
This is the first time scientists have been able to decode the biosynthesis mechanism of cordycepin in fungus. Surprisingly, this research phase was when they unexpectedly discovered pentostatin. This is according to head researcher, Wang Chengshu at the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, a branch of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The two compounds exist peacefully together in fungal cells, one acting as the protector and one acting as the protégé. In other words, cordycepin synthesizes with the two-fold production of pentostatin as an act of stability protection.
In addition, the research found that fungus spurs a detoxification process whenever the cordycepin gets to a very high, toxic level. So, ingesting too much of this fungus can be unhealthy.
This finding comes after eight years of research, and was published on the Cell Chemical Biology website this past week.
Cordyceps militaris are bright-colored mushrooms used as a supplement for soups and stews, a more affordable option over caterpillar fungus. The research has found that neither compound is located within caterpillar fungus.
Cordyceps fungi are common in China because many people believe in its immune system and energy boosting benefits. These effects are noted as far back as the Compendium of Materia Medica known as the “bible” of traditional Chinese medicine written during the Ming Dynasty.
There have been many debates over the years regarding whether these fungi are anti-bacterial or anti-cancer in nature.
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