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Rare parasitic fungi could have anti-flammatory benefits
Date:11/14/2012

Caterpillar fungi (Cordyceps) are rare parasites found on hibernating caterpillars in the mountains of Tibet. For centuries they have been highly prized as a traditional Chinese medicine - just a small amount can fetch hundreds of pounds.

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have been studying how this fungus could work by studying cordycepin, one of the drugs found in these mushrooms. They have already discovered that cordycepin has potential as a cancer drug. Their new work indicates that it could also have anti-inflammatory characteristics with the potential to help sufferers of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, renal failure and stroke damage.

The research, published today in the academic journal RNA, was led by Dr Cornelia de Moor in the School of Pharmacy. It shows that cordycepin reduces inflammatory gene products in airway smooth muscle cells the cells that contract during an asthma attack.

Several studies have suggested that cordycepin could be an effective drug for a variety of conditions, including cancer, stroke, kidney damage and inflammatory lung disease but until now it was unclear how cordycepin could bring about so many different beneficial effects at the cellular level.

Dr de Moor said: "We have shown 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 (mRNAs) 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, such as prednisone, or work on one of the final products of the inflammatory reaction (e.g. ibuprofen).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.

"However, it
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Contact: Lindsay Brooke
lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15751
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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