Grant lets U expand science

The University Center for Spirituality and Healing got $2.3M to expand its research.

Hayley Odom

The University will soon expand its research capabilities by increasing studies of natural products’ medicinal purposes.

The University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing received a $2.3 million grant last week from the National Institutes of Health to research the effects of the turkey tail mushroom on breast cancer patients’ immune systems.

The grant money will also allow the center to expand its research efforts for future scientific research and clinical trials, said Pamela Cherry, the center’s administrative director.

She said the center is now designated by the National Institutes of Health as a Developmental Center for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. That means the National Institutes of Health saw the potential for the center to build a successful research program in natural products, she said.

Cherry said the funding for this type of research is important, because many people are currently using alternative therapies.

The turkey tail mushroom research is the first initiative to benefit from the grant.

“Mushrooms have many bioactive substances Ö like vitamin D, which can directly affect cancer cells,” said Joel Slaton, University professor of urology and principal researcher.

He said therapies derived from mushrooms have been used in Asia for the last 20 to 30 years, but the healing properties of the whole mushroom have been used for centuries.

“We want to see if there’s synergism between different components in the mushroom,” he said.

The primary goal of the research is to determine whether the mushroom extract is valuable, he said.

Breast cancer patients who volunteer for the study will take the mushroom extracts in the form of a liquid or a pill, he said. Researchers will then determine if the extracts improve the patients’ immune systems.

He said turkey tail mushroom extract is now used in the medical community, but the current dose’s effectiveness has not been determined. This study will increase the dosage to see if it boosts patients’ immune systems.

Prostate cancer patients might also benefit from the mushroom extracts, Slaton said.

Graduate student Melissa DeRycke said she thinks it is good to try complementary and alternative medicines as long as they’ve gone through testing. She said she would consider using some, but not all, of these types of medicines if they were tested.

Continuing education student Britta Anderson said the problem with alternative and complementary medicines is that it is hard to define them. But she said she would consider using them.