Role of Edible Insects In Producing Anti Cancer Compound Revealed

Korean researchers have come a long way forward by discovering a new way to produce an anti cancer compound needed to suppress diseases like cancer.

As per the new study, the team o researchers have produced anti cancer  compound cordycepin in lab using a number of edible insects. 

The new thing about the discovery is that they extracted cordycepin using edible insects as a growth medium for the mushrooms from where it was extracted.

The above study has been published in Frontiers in Microbiology


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What is Cordyceptin?

Cordyceptin is an anti cancer compound. It’s basically a  nucleoside analog along and an active and natural constituent of the Cordyceps militaris mushroom.

For long, it was known to have anticancer, antibacterial, anti-aging, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. But synthesizing this compound artificially was always a challenge as the mushroom is rare in the wild.

This is what the lead researcher Mi Kyeong Lee stated, “Recently cordycepin has shown potential for a variety of cancer types. For instance, cordycepin inhibited colon cancer cell proliferation by down-regulating MYC mRNA/protein expression and up-regulating miR-26a in both HCT116 and Caco-2 cells,” he said.

Among several properties listed above, Cordyceptin was also shown to reduce the chemotactic migration ability of liver cells stromal cell‑derived factor and inhibit the ERK/Slug signaling pathway through the activation of GSK3β which, in turn, upegulates Bax, leading to apoptosis of lung cancer cells.

In the study, it was found that Cordyceps can be easily grown on grains mainly because of their availability and convenience. But it is also known that insects are its natural host having higher amounts of protein.

This high amount of protein basically serves as the source of nitrogen and carbon needed for the synthesis of cordycepin.

On the other hand Lee noted that output of cordycepin is quite low as needed by the team of researchers.

And due to this the market price of this compound surged up to 40-fold in the last 15 years, from around $12,000/kg in 2006 to more than $500,000/kg in 2019.

After coming to know about these limitations of this compound, Lee and his team worked to overcome the difficulties over its production.

And so, they started working to know if cordycepin production can be achieved through edible insects.

They grew mushroom on various insect species like Japanese rhinoceros beetles (Allomyrina dichotoma), white-spotted flower chafer larvae (Protaetia brevitarsis), mealworms (Tenebrio molitor), grasshoppers (Caelifera sp.), silkworm pupae (Bombyx mori), and crickets (Gryllus bimaculatus).

The team of researchers finally came to know that highest cordycepin content was achieved on rhinoceros beetles.

It was 89.5 mg/g dry-weight, and this was 34 times higher than the amount produced by Cordyceps grown on silkworm pupae.


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