Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring amino acid with antioxidant properties. It is commonly found in liver, kidney, black beans, kidney beans and oat bran, as well as bolete and oyster mushrooms. In the late-1920's, human blood testing conducted by researchers (Salt, 1939) showed "normal" ergothioneine levels that were nearly double more recent 2010 results found in a study conducted by Pennsylvania State University (Weigand-Heller, 2012).
Some researchers believe that ergothioneine deficiency in the general population may be a contributing factor in the dramatic increases seen in diabetes, arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, and other debilitating conditions. For instance, Dr. Solomon Snyder of Johns Hopkins believes that the amino acid may play a unique role in protecting mitochondrial DNA from damage induced by free radicals and reactive oxygen species (Snyder, 2009).
The reason for this deficiency may be linked to changes to the standard diet over time. With organ meats and mushrooms being a primary source of ergothioneine, dietary shifts towards grains and sugary foods may have ultimately caused the drop in blood serum levels. Entia Biosciences aims to solve this problem with a naturally derived version of ergothioneine that is both affordable and effective in raising serum levels of the amino acid.
Ergothioneine's Role in Health
Despite being discovered back in 1909, scientists still don’t have a complete picture of ergothioneine's role in the human body. Several different in-vitro studies have demonstrated that the amino acid is effective in inhibiting the production of oxidants by metal ions, while mutations in its transporter ("ETT") are associated with autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, strongly suggesting a therapeutic role for the amino acid.
While the role of ergothioneine in the treatment of disease remains uncertain, scientists are confident it plays some role, and Entia Biosciences has proactively applied for a patent entitled, "a nutritional approach to the control of anemia, diabetes and other diseases or conditions and prevention of associated comorbid states with the use of ergothioneine." This patent will provide the company with broad coverage for the therapeutic use of the amino acid.
The company has also been very active in exploring ergothioneine's potential in health, with a number of studies that have been published to date. Most recently, the company completed a Parkinson's Disease study in the Neurochemistry Laboratory of Dr. Jack Rogers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, MA. The results of the study were submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal and evaluate the effects of ergothioneine on PD biomarkers.
Market Potential as Supplement
The market for nutritional supplements grew 7% to $11.5 billion in 2012, according to a Packaged Facts report entitled Nutritional Supplements in the U.S. These sales are projected to increase to $15.5 billion by 2017, driven by consumer demand for less costly alternatives to traditional medical care. Some of the most successful supplements are niche markets like Omega-3, while multivitamins and generic items are experiencing slower growth rates.
Unlike many niche nutritional supplements being developed, the general public is very familiar with antioxidants and their role in preventing many diseases and slowing down the aging process. These antioxidants are often associated with so-called "superfoods", like blueberries or acai berries, but the effective performance of ergothioneine could position the company's ErgoD2(R) supplement as a market leader in the widely recognized space.
Ergothioneine itself has been a challenge for the nutritional supplement market to date, with a very high cost of producing the amino acid artificially and a lack of efficacy in many of the existing supplements on the market. Entia Biosciences has solved this issue by drying potent mushrooms, milling them into powder, and then blending them using its proprietary UV light enrichment process that is 100% USDA certified organic and proven to be effective.
Entia Biosciences represents a unique opportunity in the nutritional supplement space, given ergothioneine's broad potential to address multiple conditions. With companies like Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. (NYSE: NGVC) jumping more than 80% and Nutraceutical International Corp. (NASDAQ: NUTR) rising nearly 50% over the past 52-weeks, it's clear that strong demand exists for nutritional supplements among the general public.
While the full effects of ergothioneine aren't entirely known, Entia Biosciences has built a solid intellectual property portfolio that covers all of its potential. The upcoming studies conducted with Parkinson's Disease and other conditions could help provide the scientific backing for the treatment, particularly with in-vivo studies, and ultimately pave the way towards making ergothioneine a household antioxidant supplement.
For more information about the company, please see the following resources:
Recent SEC Filings
Sources & Citations
Salt, HB (1931). The Ergothioneine Content of the Blood in Health and Disease. Biochem J., 25(5):1712-1719
Weigand-Heller et al. (2012). The bioavailability of ergothioneine from mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and the acute effects on antioxidant capacity and biomarkers of inflammation. Preventive Medicine, 54:575-578.
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