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Scientists identify helpful bacterium in mushrooms

PRECISION MEDICINE:Testing on mice on high-fat diets showed that consuming the probiotic could curb weight gain by 20 to 30 percent and help prevent inflammation

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

From left, Chang Gung University professor Lai Hsin-chih, Ministry of Science and Technology Department of Life Sciences Director-General Chuang Woei-jer and Academia Sinica Institute of Biomedical Sciences postdoctoral fellow Wu Tsung-ju pose for a photograph at the ministry in Taipei yesterday.

Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Science and Technology

Researchers yesterday said that they have identified a bacterium extracted from medicinal mushrooms that might help prevent diet-induced obesity and inflammation-related diseases.

The team led by Chang Gung University professor Lai Hsin-chih (賴信志) found that Parabacteroides goldsteinii, which exists in limited quantities in the human digestive track, proliferates in lingzhi mushrooms and Ophiocordyceps sinensis due to their polysaccharides, Lai told a news conference at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taipei.

“I began to study Chinese herbal medicines about 10 years ago after I attended many seminars in Western countries and realized that it was an almost uncharted research territory,” Lai said.

The conditions of the gastrointestinal microbiome — the ensemble of microorganisms in the intestines — are related to metabolic disorders such as obesity, respiratory tract diseases and inflammation-related diseases such as dementia and depression, he said.

Using mice on high-fat diets for their experiments, Lai’s team found that P goldsteinii can effectively curb weight gain by 20 to 30 percent, saying that the mice did not develop any inflammation after taking the probiotic.

As it is conducive to the development of precision medicine, the bacterium can be used to make health foods, Lai said, adding that more time might be needed to make medicines.

The team has applied for a patent for the probiotic and plans to begin human testing and to seek collaboration with domestic biotechnology firms, whose larger fermentation tanks could help with cultivation of the bacteria, he said.

The team’s work on lingzhi mushrooms was published in 2015, while a study on O sinensis by Wu Tsung-ru (吳宗儒), who was Lai’s student and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biomedical Sciencies, was published in the journal Gut in July.

The researchers have a “geographical advantage” to conduct their work, as the fungi are mostly found in Asia, Wu said, adding that other scientists might have different results if they experiment with other fungi.

In addition to helping people lose weight, the findings should be regarded as a “platform” to guide other researchers in identifying new dietary supplements to treat brain-related disorders, such as dementia, ministry Department of Life Sciences Director-General Chuang Woei-jer (莊偉哲) said.



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