Mushroom extract blend creates immune cell boost, say scientists

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | RistoArnaudov
Getty | RistoArnaudov

Related tags mushrooms Cancer Immune cells

The synergistic effect of a specific combination of mushroom extracts can enhance immune cell responses and ultimately help to boost the immune system, Australian researchers have discovered.

Mushrooms contain a variety of constituents that are important for supporting health, but the beta-glucans (polymers of glucose linked in a specific manner) are particularly important for supporting immune function. 

A key characteristic of mushroom polysaccharides (polymers of sugar) that elicit an immune modulating response is that they are rich in beta-glucans and low in alpha-glucans. The β-glucans in mushrooms are not synthesised by humans so are said to be recognised by the immune system as non-self molecules which induces immune responses, therefore offering protection from attack by pathogenic microbes as well as environmental toxins and carcinogens. 

The authors of this new study, published in PLOS ONE,​ claim this is the first report of a synergistic immune modulating response in human macrophages elicited from a mushroom formula derived from beta- and alpha-glucan content. 

The research team from Integria Healthcare and Griffith University analysed nine commercially available preparations from three mushroom species: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum​), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes​) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa​), for beta-glucan and alpha-glucan content, and based on this, three extracts were selected to combine into a formula. 

They evaluated the ability of each individual extract and the formula to impact on the expression of certain cytokines (small proteins excreted by immune cells important in cell signalling) in human macrophages (a type of white blood cell). 

The majority of mushroom extracts and the formula were found to be highly potent immuno-stimulators.  

Joe Tiralongo, lead researcher and associate professor at Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, said: “Interestingly, the mushroom formula showed increased potency in the expression of certain cytokines, compared to the individual extracts suggesting a potential synergistic effect of the mushroom formula.

“A synergistic formula with a specific ratio of Maitake, Reishi and Shiitake mushroom extracts provides an increase in immune stimulation compared to the additive effect of the three individual extracts.

"This now forms the basis for further studies focussed on elucidating the exact nature of this synergistic effect and potentially identifying additional synergistic formulations based on mushroom beta-glucans,” 

Integria Healthcare has launched a complementary medicine underpinned by the research. 

Professor Mark von Itzstein AO, Founder and Director of the Institute for Glycomics, said the results were impressive.

“This is an excellent example of academia and industry working together to generate outcomes that not only inform the scientific community but importantly the general public who consume these products.”  

Source: PLOS ONE

Mallard. B., et al

‘Synergistic immuno-modulatory activity in human macrophages of a medicinal mushroom formulation consisting of Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake’

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