Fungus kills caterpillars but may help humans

Caterpillars with fungus growing out of their heads. Image of Cordyceps sinensis fungus from http://cordyceps-sinensis-mushroom.blogspot.com/

Whoever thought that a brain-attacking fungus might actually be good for you? This particular type of fungus, cordyceps, is known for attacking and killing caterpillars and can be found in the mountains of Tibet. Touted as a cure for various ailments including cancer, asthma, and erectile dysfunction, it is sold in Chinese markets as the "golden worm" or "Tibetan mushroom" for as much as $50,000 per pound! A new study published in RNA provides some evidence for these claims. The researchers isolated the chemical cordycepin from the fungus and found that it actually does have anti-inflammatory properties and works by halting polyadenylation, which shuts off genes that induce inflammation. The hope is to develop new anti-inflammatory treatments for asthma, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammation-associated diseases. Cordycepin is not currently available as a medication as more tests are needed and doctors caution about self-medicating with the fungus.

Sources:

National Geographic Daily News

Kondrashov A, Meijer HA, Barthet-Barateig A, Parker HN, Khurshid A, Tessier S, Sicard M, Knox AJ, Pang L, and de Moor CH. Inhibition of polyadenylation reduces inflammatory gene induction. RNA. published online Nov. 1, 2012. doi: 10.1261/rna.032391.112

More like this

A dead ant infected with a parasitic Cordyceps fungus (David P. Hughes).A team of entomologists working in the Brazilian rain forest has discovered four new species of parasitic Cordyceps fungi, which infect insects and manipulate the behaviour of their hosts in order to disperse their spores as…
The opening session was great! By Tatsuo Yamashita (Flickr: ワンセグで紅白をみます 2012/12/31) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Eric Hoffman (Children's National Medical Center) presented work on chronic inflammatory diseases in children. He mentioned that…
Effect of Variation in CHI3L1 on Serum YKL-40 Level, Risk of Asthma, and Lung Function: Background The chitinase-like protein YKL-40 is involved in inflammation and tissue remodeling. We recently showed that serum YKL-40 levels were elevated in patients with asthma and were correlated with…
Ok, my title may be going a bit too far, but new research coming out of Harvard University has found a fat, an omega-7 fatty acid called C16:1n7-palmitoleate, which does just that. The lipid is the first of its kind found to act as a hormone, signaling muscles cells to react better to insulin and…

This is amazing. Inflammation is very common in elderly people as we might all either from experience or knowing someone who suffers from let's rheumatoid arthritis. The success if this fungus in pharmaceuticals would change the level of medicine which would help many people. But then again as we may know many people are allergic to anything with fungus like penicillin this would bring up the same medical concern.

By A.Z Mhlongo 14103682 (not verified) on 04 May 2014 #permalink