December 12, 2007

My Favorite Fungus Makes the News: Prostate Glands Rejoice

I admit it; I have a mycological bias. I have a favorite fungus, and it's Ganoderma lucidum that has won my heart. I did research while an undergraduate on some aspects of its ecology and came to love the organism. G. lucidum is, for lack of a better term, a biochemical powerhouse of a fungus. Most fungi have prowess in this area, it's true, but G. lucidum may well turn out to be a lifesaver for some of we humans, particularly we males.

Recent research at the University of Haifa would appear to have found several new active compounds in my favorite polypore that block androgen receptors, thus stopping the proliferation of malignant cells in the rise of prostate cancer. Other fungi produce similar compounds, but of the 68 species and 201 extracts tested, G. lucidum extract was the most effective.

Now, how can any guy slowly (ahem) approaching middle age not love a fungus like that?

Unfortunately, EurekAlert neglected to mention in their press release which journal is publishing these findings. If anyone knows, please tell me. Otherwise, I'll just have to wait for the University of Haifa contact person listed in the release to get back to me and hope for a preprint.

In the meantime, next time you see a cheery orange-and-white G. lucidum pad growing out of some old oak, give it a pat on the... errr... back and say, "Thanks for maybe someday saving my prostate gland!" Or if you don't have a prostate of your own, perhaps the prostate of someone you love.

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