Professor Frederic Meunier of the Queensland Brain Institute said the team has identified active compounds in the edible mushroom Hericium erinaceus, or lion’s mane, that stimulate nerve growth and enhance memory.
The team’s pre-clinical testing found that the mushroom had a significant impact on the growth of brain cells and improved memory. Further laboratory testing measured the neurotrophic effects of compounds isolated from the mushroom on cultured brain cells, and the results were surprising: the active compounds promote neuron projections, extending and connecting to other neurons.
Using super-resolution microscopy, the team also discovered that the mushroom extract and its active components largely increase the size of growth cones, which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain.
The study’s co-author, UQ’s Dr Ramon Martinez-Marmol, said the discovery had promising applications for treating and protecting against neurodegenerative cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our idea was to identify bioactive compounds from natural sources that could reach the brain and regulate the growth of neurons, resulting in improved memory formation,” Dr Martinez-Marmol said.
Dr Dae Hee Lee from CNGBio Co, which supported and collaborated on the research project, noted that the lion’s mane mushroom’s properties had long been used to maintain health in traditional Chinese medicine.
“This important research is unravelling the molecular mechanism of lion’s mane mushroom compounds and their effects on brain function, particularly memory,” Dr Lee said.
The study’s findings, published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, have implications that could potentially revolutionise brain research and treatment. The University of Queensland acknowledges the collaborative efforts of researchers from the Republic of Korea’s Gachon University and Chungbuk National University in this groundbreaking study.
Content from the University of Queensland. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.