Substance in mushrooms could help lessen features of pre-eclampsia

4 Feb 2020

Image: © Ivan/

Irish researchers have discovered that a substance commonly found in mushrooms could be a natural way to alleviate a complex pregnancy disorder.

Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) have published findings of a study that could help those diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a disorder that affects between 5pc and 8pc of pregnancies.

Pre-eclampsia is a complex disorder that can have potentially serious consequences for women and their babies, and with no known cure other than delivery, it can become an even greater issue if it results in an extremely premature birth.

In their study, the UCC researchers said they have discovered that an antioxidant commonly found in mushroom – L-ergothioneine – could help alleviate some of the disorder’s features. Previous research has found that pre-eclampsia may be caused by substances released from the placenta that disrupt normal biological processes in the mother.

In particular, disruption of mitochondrial function can lead to exaggerated oxidative stress. Ergothioneine is a potent and effective mitochondrial antioxidant.

What they found

“We wanted to see if this natural antioxidant could ameliorate some of the biological features of pre-eclampsia using our model of disease,” said Dr Cathal McCarthy who led the study.

“Our research shows that treating rats with pre-eclampsia with the natural antioxidant L-ergothioneine reduced blood pressure, prevented foetal growth restriction and dampened production of the damaging substances released from the placenta during pre-eclampsia.”

The treatment has also been found to diminish mitochondrial-derived oxidative stress, McCarthy added. While still awaiting human trials, the researchers said ergothioneine appears to be a safe, natural diet‐derived antioxidant.

The researchers are based at the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at UCC, the Irish Centre for Foetal and Neonatal Translational Research (Infant) and the University of Liverpool.

Infant has made significant headway in this space, including the development of tests that would be able to predict and prevent major complications experienced during the later stages of pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic