Mushroom extract dramatically improves brain cell growth in the lab: ScienceAlert

Mushroom extract dramatically improves brain cell growth in the lab: ScienceAlert

Mushrooms have gained attention in recent years for their potential to help our brains grow and function. And no, we’re not just talking about psychedelics.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom, on the other hand, has long been renowned for its various mental health benefits, with recent research supporting its potential to reduce the risk of depression or limit the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

In a new study by an international team of scientists, researchers have identified compounds in lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceous) – a species of edible mushroom also known as yamabushitake Or hou tou gu – which could stimulate nerve growth and improve memory.

“Extracts of these so-called lion’s mane mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine in Asian countries for centuries, but we wanted to scientifically determine their potential effect on brain cells,” says lead author Frédéric Meunier of Queensland Brain. Institute.

The researchers isolated a compound from lion’s mane mushroom known as N-phenylethyl isohericerin, as well as its hydrophobic derivative called hericene A, and tested their effects on cultured neurons from rat embryos.

The extracts had a “clear neurotrophic effect”, they write, resulting in doubly long axons – the threadlike links that conduct impulses away from a neuron – and more than triple the number of neurites, or small projections of a neuron that can fully grow. functional axons or dendrites.

“Laboratory tests have measured the neurotrophic effects of compounds isolated from Hericium erinaceous on cultured brain cells, and surprisingly, we found that the active compounds promote neuronal projections, extending and connecting to other neurons,” says Meunier.

“Using super-resolution microscopy, we found that the mushroom extract and its active components dramatically increased the size of growth cones,” he adds, “which are particularly important for brain cells to detect. their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain”. .”

Research has shown that growth cones stimulate the development of axons, helping those crucial extensions to branch out from a nerve cell and navigate to connect to a precise target cell.

The study also included behavioral experiments in mice, designed to test how fungal compounds affect rodent memory. The results suggest “dietary supplementation with H.erinaceus the raw extract significantly improves recognition memory.”

And apparently it doesn’t take much to achieve this result – by reducing 50-fold concentrations of hericene A in the crude extract did not appear to affect its influence on recognition memory.

Previous research on lion’s mane mushrooms has suggested that their famed memory-boosting effect may occur because they promote neurogenesis, the researchers note, and this study appears to support that explanation.

“Our idea was to identify bioactive compounds from natural sources that could reach the brain and regulate the growth of neurons, which would improve memory formation,” says co-author Ramon Martinez-Marmol, a Queensland researcher. Brain Institute.

Lion’s mane mushrooms form white, shaggy spines that hang in a cluster, vaguely resembling a lion’s beard or mane. They grow naturally on dead trees, with a native range spanning swaths of Asia, Europe and North America, but are also widely cultivated.

The mushroom has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, and a burgeoning field of research now validates some of the age-old claims of its health benefits. This study may reveal valuable details, but we still have a lot to learn about exactly what these mushrooms can do.

Like many studies so far, this one relies on rodents to examine how the fungus affects brain cells and function. This may yield useful information, of course, but more research involving humans will be needed before scientists fully understand how the compounds affect our species.

In the meantime, this new study provides intriguing support for the already strong case that lion’s mane mushrooms offer at least some sort of brain-boosting effect. Taken together, the authors write, their findings suggest that the compound hericene A acts as a “potent memory enhancer.”

According to Dae Hee Lee of CNG Bio, a South Korea-based company that supported the research, this sheds new scientific light on an ancient tradition. And that information could be particularly relevant today, as many aging human populations face cognitive decline.

“This important research uncovers the molecular mechanism of lion’s mane mushroom compounds and their effects on brain function, particularly memory,” Lee said.

The study was published in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

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