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Caterpillar Fungi Could Have Anti-inflammatory Benefits

Scientists have discovered that a compound called cordycepin from caterpillar fungi may have anti-inflammatory properties.

| November 19, 2012 | Health

AsianScientist (Nov. 19, 2012) - Scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered that a compound called cordycepin from caterpillar fungi may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Known in Tibetan and Nepali as yartsa gunbu and prized in traditional medicine in China and Tibet for centuries, the fungus – some pieces measuring no more than four centimeters – retails at up to US$800 for around 28 grams.

The study, published recently in the journal RNA, showed that cordycepin reduces inflammatory gene products in airway smooth muscle cells – the cells that contract during an asthma attack.

The researchers showed that cordycepin reduces the expression of inflammatory genes in airway smooth muscle cells by acting on the final step in the synthesis of their messenger RNAs which carry the chemical blueprint for the synthesis of proteins. This process is called polyadenylation.

Commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs either work much earlier in the activation of inflammatory genes (e.g. prednisone), or work on one of the final products of the inflammatory reaction (e.g. ibuprofen), said Dr. Cornelia de Moor in the School of Pharmacy who led the study.

"These findings indicate that cordycepin acts by a completely different mechanism than currently used anti-inflammatory drugs, making it a potential drug for patients in which these drugs don’t work well," said de Moor.

The group also showed that cordycepin acts on inflammatory genes because they can be very rapidly induced. This means that cordycepin may alter the synthesis of other classes of rapidly induced genes as well, they say.

However, it also indicates that cordycepin could have adverse effects on normal wound healing and on the natural defenses against infectious diseases.

“We are hoping to further investigate which genes are more dependent on polyadenylation than others and why this is the case, as well as test the effect of cordycepin on animal models of disease,” said de Moor.

The article can be found at: Kondrashov A et al. (2012) Inhibition of polyadenylation reduces inflammatory gene induction.


Source: University of Nottingham; Photo: Kyle Knight/IRIN.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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