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Directors' Report

May 2022

Obesity causes a buildup of fat metabolites, including a toxic lipid molecule ceramide. Buildup of ceramide worsens health because it contributes to the development of diabetes and other diseases. Previous work has shown that targeting ceramide is an effective strategy to treat obesity, diabetes and associated cardiovascular disease. This can be achieved using a molecule called myriocin which is a very potent inhibitor of ceramide generation. Myriocin-mediated reduction of ceramide levels was found to be an effective way to treat obesity and associated diseases in rodents. Myriocin, which is not approved for use in humans, is abundant in a number of fungal species including the one called Cordyceps which is routinely consumed as part of traditional Chinese medicine used for the treatment of numerous diseases including diabetes. In a recently published study, FOEDRC member, Dr. Chaurasia, and his team screened extracts of Cordyceps currently being consumed by humans to identify those containing myriocin and tested their efficacy in improving body weight and glucose in obese animals. Interestingly, they identified several commercially available Cordyceps that contain myriocin. When they treated obese mice with a human equivalent dose of Cordyceps extract containing myriocin they found it was effective in reducing ceramide accumulation. This treatment was also successful in preventing obesity and improving blood glucose and liver disease. This study provides proof-of-principle that inhibiting the buildup of ceramide using myriocin containing Cordyceps extract improves not only obesity, but also diabetes and liver disease. Collectively, this work identifies commercially available Cordyceps as a readily available supplement to treat obesity and associated diseases.

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