A publication earlier this month in Scientific Reports demonstrates that a key lipid metabolite may be a useful target in preventing or even reversing diabetes and many of its comorbidities. Ceramides are a characteristic of obesity, and increased accumulation of these metabolites contributes to glucose and metabolism impairments. In rodents, ceramide degradation prevented and reversed disease like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiomyopathy. Expanding on previous studies, Bhagirath Chaurasia, PhD, assistant professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism, has identified a nutraceutical that inhibits ceramide biosynthesis and improves energy homeostasis.
In a previous study, Chaurasia found that inhibiting ceramide synthesis reduced obesity and insulin resistance in mice, suggesting that targeting ceramides might be a solution to obesity. Myriocin, a pharmacological agent extracted from the fungus Isaria sinclairii, has been identified as an inhibitor of ceramide biosynthesis. Although not approved for human use, extracts from a similar fungus group, Cordyceps, are consumed as a part of traditional Chinese medication to treat diseases including diabetes.
Chaurasia and his team screened commercially available extracts of Cordyceps to test their efficacy and which extracts contain myriocin. The team found that some of the commercially available Cordyceps contain myriocin, reduce ceramide accumulation, and prevent diet-induced obesity, among other benefits.
“Our study provides proof-of-principle that myriocin containing Cordyceps extract inhibit ceramide biosynthesis and attenuate metabolic impairments associated with obesity,” Chaurasia said. “Collectively, these studies identify commercially available Cordyceps as a readily available supplement to treat obesity and associated metabolic diseases.”
Last June, Chaurasia received a four-year, $545,100 Junior Faculty Development Award from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to fund his exploration of ceramide synthesis and its impact on health. This award along with a grant from the US Department of Agriculture helped fund Chaurasia’s Scientific Reports study and related projects.