Anticancer mushrooms: MU Professor wins patent for anticancer compound from fungi

The mushroom grows natively in Kolli Hills in the Eastern Ghats & Kanyakumari forests in the Western Ghats.

Cancer research gets massive amounts of money in investments every year. Millions of dollars go into finding new and effective cancer-fighting therapies, and for the first time, an Indian patent has been awarded to a duo for a compound with anti-cancer properties extracted from a species of wild mushroom found in the Western Ghats.

Retired Madras University professor Venkatesan Kaviyarasan, and his PhD student J Majunathan are to credit for the find. The species of mushroom that was found to have anti-cancer compounds is the Japanese Shitake mushroom (lentinus tuberregium), a popular edible mushroom that also happens to have high nutritional value, The New Indian Express reported.

Anticancer mushrooms: MU Professor wins patent for anticancer compound from fungi

Lentinus tigrinus, a co-species in the Lentinus family with nutritional and possible medicinal value. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Kaviyarasan and his team have been studying the biodiversity of mushroom in the Ghats since the 1960s, according to the report. Over the year, he and his students have helped catalogue 700 mushroom varieties, bio-documenting the edible ones with highly nutritive attributes, and studying medicinal mushrooms from the 1990s. Kaviyarasan's associates collected lentinus samples from Kolli Hills in the Eastern Ghats and Kanyakumari forests of the Western Ghats.

After putting both the nutritional and medicinal properties of the mushrooms to the test, eight compounds with bio-active compounds were identified, and a few among them confirmed as having anti-cancer properties by comparing them with existing anticancer treatments in cancer cells. A project proposal has been forwarded to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to take the research forward, Manjunathan told Express.

Gene editing technology has a variety of potential applications. Image: Getty

Gene editing technology has a variety of potential applications including mass-production of scarcely-available natural compounds. Image: Getty

While an incredible find, the prospects for the anti-cancer mushroom to be farmed for the pharmaceutical industry are slim for now, since its availability and seasonal nature are less than ideal.

But with advances is genetic engineering and CRISPR, it may be possible to simply locate the genes coding for the anti-cancer compound, transfer them into a simpler system and mass produce it in a factory. But till that research finds a solve, Kaviyarasan and Majunathan are hopeful that the lentinus mushroom can be cultivated commercially.