The traditional medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus is known to enhance peripheral nerve regeneration by targeting neurotrophic nerve growth factor (NGF) activity.

In a new study, scientists at the University of Queensland have purified and biologically identified new active compounds from H. erinaceus. The compound may stimulate nerve growth and improve memory.

Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lion’s Mane mushroom, was used to treat unrelated conditions such as abdominal pain and as a prophylactic treatment for cancer. In this study, scientists wanted to scientifically determine their potential effect on brain cells.

Several studies have reported strong neurotrophic effects, including brain cell growth and memory enhancement.

Surprisingly, when we tested the neurotrophic effects of substances isolated from Hericium erinaceus on cultured brain cells, scientists found that the active compounds enhance neuron projections, expand and connect to other neurons.

Surprisingly, scientists found that the active compounds enhance neuron projections, expand and connect with other neurons when they tested the neurotrophic effects of compounds isolated from Hericium erinaceus on cultured brain cells.

Professor Frederic Meunier from the Queensland Brain Institute said: “Using super-resolution microscopy, we found that the mushroom extract and its active components largely enlarge growth cones, which is especially important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain.”

Co-author UQ’s Dr. Ramon Martinez-Marmol said the discovery had applications that could treat and protect neurodegenerative cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Our idea was to identify bioactive compounds from natural sources that can reach the brain and regulate neuron growth, resulting in improved memory formation.”

Dr. Dae Hee Lee of CNGBio Co, who supported and collaborated on the research project, said the properties of lion’s mane mushrooms have been used since ancient times to treat ailments and maintain health in traditional chinese medicine.

“This important research unravels the molecular mechanism of lion’s mane mushroom compounds and their effects on brain function, particularly memory.”

Magazine reference:

  1. Ramón Martínez-Mármol et al., Hericerin derivatives activate a pan-neurotrophic pathway in central hippocampal neurons that converge to ERK1/2 signaling that enhances spatial memory, Journal of Neurochemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1111/jnc.15767