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Expensive herb not as effective as people thought
    The precious herb dong chong xia cao, or Chinese caterpillar fungus, may be not as effective and useful as people thought, as recent research conducted by local scientists suggests.
    Scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the expensive herb doesn't contain cordycepin, a chemical component derived from fungus with antibacterial and anticancer effects. Cordycepin was initially extracted from the fungus Cordyceps militaris and can now be produced synthetically. 
    "We studied different fungi and found dong chong xia cao doesn't produce cordycepin, while Cordyceps militrartis can produce high levels of cordycepin and pentostatin only if being cultivated on silkworm pupae," said Wang Chengshu, who led the research. "We also discovered the relationship between cordycepin and pentostatin."
    Penstostatin has been approved as a commercial anti-leukemia drug.
    The research provided molecular evidence of the anticancer effects of Cordyceps militaris and offers genetic evidence that dong chong xia cao doesn't contain the gene for cordycepin biosynthesis, scientists said.
    "Pentostatin can also serve as a molecular indicator to judge the quality of Cordyceps militrartis," he said.
    The research was published in the Cell Press journal Cell Chemical Biology last night.