As the epidemic intensifies, the confirmed cases in Taiwan are rising continually. In addition to vaccination, preventing the infection of COVID-19 in daily life is also a major point. A research team from the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University cooperated by Tung-Yi Lin, who has served as an Associate Professor of the Institute of Traditional Medicine, and Assistant Professor Ming-Han Tsai from the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology showed that the Ganoderma Microsporum immunomodulatory protein “GMI” could induce the degradation of ACE2 in the host cells and alleviate the infection of SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus. This finding has been published in “Phytomedicine”, a reputable international journal in the field of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Associate Professor Lin has been engaged in the research of Lin-Zhi (靈芝) proteins for many years. The Herbal Foundation Compendium (本草綱目) records that Lin-Zhi “replenish the lung Qi (益肺氣)” which shows the certain effects of Ganoderma lucidum on the lungs. Professor Lin believes that Ganoderma lucidum may play a pivotal role in the COVID-19. In this study, GMI, a novel protein isolated from Ganoderma microsporum in Taiwan, exhibits high potential in preventing COVID-19. To study the effects of GMI in SARS-CoV-2 infection, Assistant Professor Tsai had created a SARS-CoV-2 pseudotyped virus to mimic the infection in ACE2-expressing host cells. The findings showed that GMI effectively inhibits the infection of SARS-CoV-2 by affecting the host cells.
Increasing evidence shows that the ACE2 protein in the host cells would bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2, causing the virus to infect the host cells. The research team showed that GMI could prevent virus infection in two ways. For viruses, GMI could interact with the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 virus to interfere with the binding activity of the virus and the host cells. For the host cells, GMI induces the endocytosis of ACE2 on the host cells, leading to the induction of ACE2 degradation. Taken together, GMI not only affects the host cells but also binds to the virus, leading to the alleviation of SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus infection in the host cells.
In addition, Prof. Lin thinks that virus infects the host cells through the respiratory system. Using GMI to directly protect the respiratory tract could be more effective to prevent the virus infection. Therefore, GMI was inhaled to the lung respiratory tract of mice by a “nebulized inhalator (霧化吸氣性)”. The findings showed that the aerosol treatment could reduce the expression of ACE2 in the lung of mice, suggesting that the aerosol treatment of GMI could provide a novel strategy to prevent the COVID-19.
The research team found that GMI not only interfered with the virus binding to the host cells but also reduced the virus infection. This finding has won the gold medallion award of the Moscow International Salon of Inventions and Innovative Technologies ARCHIMEDES competition. Currently, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still mutating continuously. Using the scientific-based evidence to identify the safe ingredients by Chinese pharmacopoeia could be a complementary epidemic prevention strategy.
The research team also emphasized that during the epidemic outbreak, GMI could be used for daily health care as a dietary supplement, while more clinical and basic research are still required to confirm its efficacy. Therefore, it is recommended that people should follow the government policies or consult doctors to prevent COVID-19.