Diseases of the ageing nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke, are serious global public health crises as there is no cure for them currently. These lucrative markets have thus attracted the interest of a majority of large pharmaceutical companies which have put a tremendous effort into seeking medications to relieve the symptoms. However, despite successful preclinical testing, clinical trials for novel drugs have a poor track record of success.

In stroke and traumatic brain injuries, a variety of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists have halted the progression of secondary damages in rodent models, yet they have failed in human clinical trials due to unwanted side effects of the drugs. Likewise, levodopa is the primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease that passes through the blood-brain barrier and gets converted into dopamine, but its long-term use can elicit additional clinical symptoms such as psychosis, mood fluctuations, increased cognitive impairment, or drug-induced dyskinesias. Similarly, despite one new drug out of 244 compounds tested in 413 Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials between 2002 and 2012 being approved for use, it cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing. Even though several other studies are underway, huge disappointment from the largest pharmaceutical companies, such as Axovant Sciences Ltd., Merck & Co Inc., Biogen Inc., Prana Biotechnology Ltd., and Pfizer Inc., was observed during recent times. With a significant number of failed clinical trials and without a clear understanding of the potential mechanism of these diseases, dementia specialists have therefore turned their focus from treatment to prevention to stop further disease progression.

It is time to stop dementia before it starts. Recently, the search for small preventative neurotrophic compounds that can cross the brain-blood and are responsible for the maintenance, survival, and regeneration of neurons has attracted much attention. In particular, compounds derived from natural sources with fewer side effects that can be part of everyday nutrition may help with dementia prevention. Mushrooms, which are considered nutritionally functional foods and sources of physiologically beneficial medicines, can be excellent candidates for this cause.

Among all culinary mushrooms, Hericium erinaceus (most commonly known as lion’s mane) has been widely reported to have therapeutic activities related to the promotion of nerve and brain health. Different compounds isolated from this mushroom inducing the expression of neurotrophic factors such as nerve growth factors (NGF) have been actively studied and reported []. Hericenones were typically found in the fruiting bodies while erinacines were derived from the mycelia of the mushroom.

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