The shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes) has been used historically for anti-cancer and immune-modulating activity. An ethyl acetate fraction from shiitake mushrooms was evaluated in breast cell carcinoma and myeloma cell lines. The results showed an up-regulation of pro-apoptotic proteins inducing apoptosis and resulting in a 51% anti-proliferative effect in cancer cells treated with the shiitake extract.55 A study was conducted to examine the anticancer effects of four alpha-D-glucans extracted from shiitake mushrooms compared with O-sulfonated alpha-D-glucan derivatives. The results showed that the O-sulfonation of the alpha-D-glucan considerably increased the anti-tumor activities compared to the native alpha-D-glucans.56 The constituent lentinan was also shown to exhibit anti-cancer activity. Lentinan extract was given orally to mice for seven days prior to inoculation with either murine lymphoma cells or human colon-carcinoma cells. The results showed significant regression in tumor formation in pre-fed mice compared to controls in both cancer cell lines.57 A polysaccharide containing d-glucopyranose was extracted from shiitake mushrooms and evaluated for immune activity in mice-transplanted sarcoma cells. A significant increase in phagocytosis by macrophages and a significant decrease in tumor formation was observed. The concentration of serum TNF-alphaand IFN-gamma increased significantly in the polysaccharide-treated groups. The polysaccharide also increased NO production and catalase activity in macrophages. Thus, the results indicated that the anti-tumor activity of this polysaccharide was mediated by immune modulation by inducing T-cells and macrophage-dependent immune responses.58
Shiitake mushrooms have also demonstrated antibacterial activity. One study showed that a 5% concentration of shiitake juice extract produced a pronounced antimicrobial effect with respect to the pathogenic bacteria Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus faecalis, while the beneficial colonic bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus exhibited resistance to the action of shiitake juice.59
Extracts from shiitake mushrooms have also demonstrated hypoglycemic and cholesterol-lowering action as well. Diabetic rats were treated with an exo-polymer from Lentinus edodes. The results showed a reduction of plasma glucose levels by as much as 21.5% and increased plasma insulin by 22.1% compared to controls. Additionally, total cholesterol levels were reduced by 25.1% and triglyceride levels decreased by 44.5%.60
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