Pregnancy hypertension or Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy. Usually, the mother’s blood pressure can be successfully managed with oral medication and the pregnancy can continue, but sometimes the baby needs to be delivered early. This can cause problems if the pregnancy is not near term. A new study has shown that natural antioxidants found in mushrooms may help treat this pregnancy issue.

Woman cradling pregnant belly

Research from the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at University College Cork (UCC), the INFANT Centre at UCC and the University of Liverpool, as well as The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) at Technical University of Denmark, have shown in a rat model that a natural diet derived antioxidant L-ergothioneine can relieve some of the clinical symptoms of preeclampsia. The hope is that the same will be true for humans.

“Our research shows that treating rats with preeclampsia with the natural antioxidant L-ergothioneine reduced blood pressure, prevented fetal growth restriction and dampened production of the damaging substances released from the placenta during preeclampsia,” says Dr. Cathal McCarthy, leader of this research in a press release from the INFANT Centre at UCC.

In order to be able to make enough L-ergothioneine to eventually treat patients, the scientists are looking into ways of producing this compound efficiently in high amounts using yeast cell factories. Ergothioneine can be found in a wide variety of foods, particularly in mushrooms, where amounts are relatively high compared to other foods.

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“Today, ergothioneine is either made chemically or extracted from mushrooms, but at DTU Biosustain we are developing a method to make it biologically. This should lead to its much wider availability at competitive prices,” says Douglas Kell, Associated Scientific Director at DTU Biosustain and Research Chair in Systems Biology Department of Biochemistry, University of Liverpool.

Much evidence exists for L-ergothioneine’s benefits in a variety of neurological and vascular disorders as well. Thus, L-ergothioneine appears to be a safe, natural diet derived antioxidant whose therapeutic potential looks promising but remains to be validated in human clinical trials.

—Jennifer Swartvagher

Featured photo: freestocks on Unsplash

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