Forests and Human Health January-09-2012

Meeting Notes

The 6th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference
– reported by Tytti Sarjala

The International Medicinal Mushroom Conference has been organized biennially since 2001 and was held for the 6th time in Zagreb, Croatia on 25-29 September 2011. Over 100 researchers from 36 countries gathered for five days to present the latest findings in the field of medicinal properties of mushrooms and their use as medicinal agents. The conference brought together biologists, physicians, chemists, scientists from the fields of genetics, biochemistry, biotechnology and pharmacology, as well as business people working with mushrooms from all over the world, to have a dialogue on the search for the bioactive compounds of mushrooms, their effects and use in the food industry as well as in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industry.

Most presented studies were performed with cultivated species such as Ganoderma lucidum (Lindzhi/Reishi), Lentinus edodes (shiitake), Grifola frondosa (maitake) or Pleurotus ostreatus (osterivinokas). However, reports about bioactive compounds from other fungal species, such as endophytes, were also presented.

A wide range of in vitro studies with cell models of human diseases were covered in the presentations, including cancer, inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, diabetes and wound healing.

A comprehensive review of the antitumor compounds of mushrooms, the mechanisms of the effects and clinical trials was given by Professor Ulrike Lindequist. She also elucidated the challenges, which scientific work in this field faces today. For example, the lack of defined samples and mechanistic information is a problem, as well as the fact that pharmacological studies are often performed with very variable and undefined samples. Furthermore, most studies are done with in vitro or animal models while proper clinical studies are few. In future, there should be more interdisciplinary scientific work, improved quality control of the samples, acceptable clinical studies, and stronger participation by pharmaceutical companies.

Professor Solomon Wasser pointed out that mushrooms produce beneficial effects not only as drugs but also as dietary supplements. He added that a major problem associated with mushroom-based dietary supplements is their wide variability and the current lack of standards for production and testing protocols necessary to guarantee product quality. Furthermore, science today should focus more on low-molecular-weight secondary metabolites targeting processes such as apoptosis, angiogenesis, metastasis, cell cycle regulation and signal transduction cascades.

The next International Medicinal Mushroom Conference will be held in 2013 in China. Conference web page:

The 7th International Conference on Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products
– reported by Eira-Maija Savonen

It is well known that mushrooms contain dietary fiber, ergosterol, vitamins, minerals, bioactive polysaccharides and various polyphenolic compounds recognized as excellent antioxidants. Numerous studies have shown medicinal attributes including anti-tumor, antimicrobial, immunomodulating, liver function-improving and cholesterol-lowering activity, for example. The most investigated mushrooms for their medicinal values are Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi), Lentinula edodes (Shiitake), Grifola frondosa (Maitake) and Agaricus subrufescens (Himematsutake).

Many wild forest mushrooms have been adopted into human diet because of their culinary and nutritional properties. In addition, the therapeutic value of some fungi has been known and appreciated for centuries. Especially in Asian countries fungi have had a major role in traditional folk medicine. In the best case, culinary and the therapeutic values have been found in the very same mushroom species. For example, the medicinal and the nutritional use of the shiitake mushroom (L. edodes) already started B.C.E.

The Shiitake mushroom, as well as many other edible, dead plant matter-decomposing mushrooms are artificially cultivable in human-made environments. Conversely, the majority of mycorrhizal mushrooms still resist human domestication attempts.

The conference focused on
1) genomics, genetics, molecular biology and breeding;
2) evolution, biodiversity and systematics;
3) biochemistry, physiology, nutritional and medicinal aspects and innovative products from mushrooms;
4) cultivation technology and the bioconversions of mushrooms.

The conference participants, coming from 36 different countries, introduced their results in 73 oral and 69 poster presentations. Only five of the presentations concentrated only on mycorrhizal mushrooms, the others on saprophytes and their cultivation-related issues. Interesting new results were also heard in the sessions for the medicinal properties of fungi, the mycosourced molecules, and the nutritional qualities of mushrooms.

Most studies related to medicinal properties were still performed with edible L. edodes, G. frondosa and A. subrufescens and with the purely medicinal, non-edible polypore G. lucidum. New results illuminated e.g. changes in antioxidant activities and compounds during the cultivation of L. edodes, and variation in lentinan in its different strains, deepened our knowledge of the immune activity of G. frondosa and taught us new colorimetric methods to quantify the β-1,3-1,6 glucan, chitin and chitosan in mushrooms. Interesting study results about the protecting effects of commonly eaten A. bisporus, L. edodes and P. ostreatus in a model of stress-induced gastric ulcerogenesis in rats were presented. The results showed that P. ostreatus and L. edodes inhibited ulcer formation in more than 2/3 of the stressed rats. Several other papers reported on the medicinal effects observed in cellular models and test animals, and others on mushrooms as sources of nutritional and active biomolecules.

The meeting highlighted many aspects of mushroom biology and mushroom products and offered a splendid opportunity to meet with colleagues to strengthen existing partnerships and to create new collaboration between mushroom scientists and also with persons involved with the mushroom industry.

The conference was organized by the Mycology and Food Safety Research Unit of the INRA Research Centre of Bordeaux. The event took place in Arcachon, in south-west France from 4th to 7th of October 2011. Conference web page:

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