Red Reishi – the magic mushroom of immortality?

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Red Reishi, was once so rare that its use was reserved solely for Chinese emperors who revered it as the secret to youth, health and beauty.

Today though reishi is available around the world, but it appears the Emperors were onto something as research, just published, shows the unusual mushroom has real anti-aging properties and deserves its name as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’.

Two new studies just published have further re-enforced the research that red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) can be hugely beneficial for helping to protect our bodies from the ravages of old age.

The first new paper, published this month 1, shows that in aging cells an extract of G. lucidum (reishi) has a significant effect on reducing the processes that cause cells to age and improves their energy production systems.

The second paper 2 also used an extract of G. lucidum and showed that it may be effective at improving the function of mitochondria, the ‘factories’ that produce energy in our cells, and whose function is reduced with age. The researchers go onto suggest that there could be a therapeutic application for red reishi against ageing associated neurodegenerative diseases.

These new studies add further weight to the anti-aging research that has gone before – papers have shown that these mushrooms can have potent immuno-modulating action so could potentially have a real complementary effect for people with, or who are recovering from, cancer 3, 4, 5, so much so that Cancer Research UK commissioned a paper on them. The mushrooms have also been seen to contain active molecules which could help reduce the effects of arthritis 6, 7.

It is easy to see then why the Emperors were so keen to keep this secret to themselves and it appears nature could have provided the anti-aging remedy we have all been looking for.

Making it harder to argue against the benefits of Reishi is the fact that its effects can be felt so quickly and there are no side-effects from its use. It is however important to bear in mind that the key to Reishi mushroomsÂ’ effectiveness are their adaptogenic qualities; that is to say that they help to normalise the body and aid its natural processes via active substances found in the mushrooms such as water-soluble polysaccharides and triterpenes. The efficacy of the mushrooms can vary dramatically depending on how they are grown. The mushrooms draw nutrients up through their stalks from the medium on which they are grown and this determines the quantity of active substances within the mushrooms themselves. Mikei Red Reishi Essence mushrooms are grown in aged Japanese Oak logs in the most natural conditions possible and take a full year to reach maturity, resulting in one of the highest quality and most effective extracts available.

Mikei Red Reishi Essence is a Reishi extract that couldnÂ’t be easier to use and comes in ready to swallow vegetable based capsules; for general health and well-being only one capsule needs to be taken daily. Extracted from mushrooms grown in Japan, Mikei Red Reishi Essence is the most concentrated Reishi extract on the market and is now available in the UK from Haeon Limited. Buy online at www.haeon.com or from leading health stores.

Editor notes and example studies

1. Ganoderma lucidum (Fr.) P. Karst enhances activities of heart mitochondrial enzymes and respiratory chain complexes in the aged rat.

2. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum on the activities of mitochondrial dehydrogenases and complex I and II of electron transport chain in the brain of aged rats.

3. Medicinal mushrooms: their therapeutic properties and current medical usage with special emphasis on cancer treatments.
John E Smith. Emeritus Professor of Applied Microbiology, University of Strathclyde. Chief Scientific Officer, MycoBiotech Ltd, Singapore. Neil J Rowan. Lecturer, Department of Bioscience, University of Strathclyde. Richard Sullivan. Head of Clinical Programmes, Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK – 2003

4. Anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor-promoting effects of triterpene acids and sterols from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Akihisa T, Nakamura Y, Tagata M, Tokuda H, Yasukawa K, Uchiyama E, Suzuki T, Kimura Y. Chem Biodivers. 2007 Feb;4(2):224-31.

5. Ganoderma lucidum inhibits proliferation of human breast cancer cells by down-regulation of estrogen receptor and NF-kappaB signaling. Jiang J, Slivova V, Sliva D. Int J Oncol. 2006 Sep;29(3):695-703.

6. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide reduced the production of proinflammatory cytokines in activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblast. Ho YW, Yeung JS, Chiu PK, Tang WM, Lin ZB, Man RY, Lau CS. Mol Cell Biochem. 2007 Jul;301(1-2):173-9. Epub 2007 Jan 12

7. Anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor-promoting effects of triterpene acids and sterols from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Akihisa T, Nakamura Y, Tagata M, Tokuda H, Yasukawa K, Uchiyama E, Suzuki T, Kimura Y. Chem Biodivers. 2007 Feb;4(2):224-31.

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Scientists move closer to human immortality

Madrid: Scientists at the Spanish National Cancer Centre found evidence that a natural protein could be the key ingredient in an elixir of eternal youth.

According to the scientists, boosting the amount of the naturally forming substance, telomerase, in the body could prevent cells from dying and thereby slow the process of ageing.

Telomerase helps maintain the protective caps at ends of chromosomes which act like ends of shoelaces and stop them unravelling. As people age and the cells divide, these caps become frayed and shorter and are so damaged that the cell dies eventually.

So far the scientists have only carried out an experiment on laboratory rodents. They found that those mice genetically engineered to produce ten times the normal levels of telomerase lived 50 per cent longer than normal. Those animals also had less fat, had better co-ordination and were better at processing sugar.

Lead researcher Maria Blasco said that the enzyme was capable of turning “a normal, mortal cell into an immortal cell” and a similar approach could eventually lead to extended human lifespans.

“You can delay the ageing of mice and increase their lifespan. (But) I think it is very hard to extrapolate data from mouse ageing to human ageing,” she told the New Scientist magazine.

One of the problems with boosting telomerase is that it can increase the risk of cancer. However, she said that the obstacle could be overcome by issuing cancer drugs that could offset the negative affects.

Longevity pill nearer, say scientists

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New York: Scientists are a step closer to producing a superdrug to extend lifespan, according to a report in the journal Nature.

In the journal, the researchers from Harvard report that three compounds invented by Sirtris, a pharmaceutical company, have succeeded in activating cellular defenses that slow diseases of ageing in the same way associated with resveratrol, a naturally occurring chemical found in red wine.

The difference is that Sirtris’s synthetic compounds are 1,000 times as potent as the resveratrol in wine. This solves a big drawback with the naturally occurring chemical—wine contains such minute quantities that a person would have to drink hundreds of bottles a day to see any significant benefit.

The potent new pills mimic resveratrol in mice by activating the SIRT-1 gene, which appears to trigger a process called caloric restriction. In many organisms, that process acts to slow down aging and ramp up cellular defenses in the face of a reduced diet during times of scarce food supplies. Sirtris’s new compounds, however, act without the little critters having to reduce their diet.

In past experiments, many of them conducted by Harvard pathologist and Sirtris cofounder David Sinclair, resveratrol has increased the lifespan of mice up to 24 percent, and other simpler organisms such as yeast up to 59 percent. In November 2006, Sinclair and Sirtris scientists that resveratrol could reduce the impact of a high fat diet, increase stamina two fold and significantly extend lifespan of mice.

Skeptics have long claimed that aging is too complex to be regulated by a small number of genes, though Sinclair and other leading longevity scientists such as Leonard Guarente of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California at San Francisco keep refining and supporting their argument that it is.

Investors have believed the Sirtris story enough to pony up $103 million in private rounds and $63 million in an IPO last May. Sirtris’ stock today has risen as much as 6 percent—roughly twice the rise in the S&P 500 index.

The current paper does not target longevity specifically, but demonstrates that Sirtris’s pills may slow a major disease of aging, diabetes type II, which afflicts 18 million Americans.

The pills improved insulin sensitivity, lowered plasma glucose levels, and increased the function of mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell that is associated with healthy and long-living cells.

Sirtris recently started human trials using a super-potent version of resveratrol, and so far the drug is reported to be producing positive results. The synthetic compounds are both more potent and more stable chemically.

They also are better candidates for Food and Drug Administration approval since in many cases a synthetic compound concocted in a lab can be more consistently manufactured and standardized for doses than products based on a natural compound.

The three “New Drug Entities” described in today’s paper will begin human trials in the first half of 2008.

New Book: Trends Beyond Life – in search of immortality

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London-based trend forecaster Susan Muncey’s book Trends Beyond Life – In Search of Immortality is an extremely opportune and relevant book. The beginning of a new year is always a time to reflect on the past and, more pertinently, consider the future.

However, in this rapidly changing world where technology and science are opening new and challenging doors, where does that leave us morally and culturally? Susan Muncey assesses recent social trends affecting our daily lives, including our quest for eternal youth and immortality, which she sees as a key trend of our times. Muncey then expands on this theme and explores the ways that death and remembrance have been handled historically and analyses current developments and thinking.

‘The quest for longevity by reversing the signs of ageing and increasing life expectancy seems to have become the Holy Grail. I wanted to explore what drives us towards this desire and taking it further, what immortality actually means. Why do we wish to be remembered? How do we wish to be remembered?’ says Susan Muncey.

The book also includes in-depth research into experiences of death and bereavement in both the developed and the developing world. Muncey travelled to Zambia where she saw how the country is coping with a huge increase in mortality rates and the initiatives being made to implement changes within the burial system. Back in the UK, Muncey details how our views on death are evolving and highlights new trends in funerals – such as green burials and freeze dried cremation – and remembrance including the use of the internet as a vital tool in helping to create immortality.

‘What started as a study of trends in death turned out to be a contemplation on immortality and the many ways that we can achieve it these days,’ says Muncey.

Susan Muncey is the founder of the digital time capsule Diary of Mankind www.diaryofmankind.com where users can record their life, their wishes and their desires for future generations. Muncey also runs Visuology www.visuology.com, a trend forecasting and lifestyle coaching company. Her clients include the cutting-edge designer uniform company, nouniform. A Cambridge graduate, Susan Muncey has had a broad career ranging from working in investment management in the City to opening the late 90s cult boutique Fashion Gallery in London’s Little Venice. Costs $15.44 (ÂŁ7.95, €11.70) Buy www.amazon.co.uk and at leading booksellers

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