Research and development of Monascus purpureus NTU 568
In Asia, the application of Monascus species in food, medicine, and industry dates back over a thousand years. It has been called "Hon-Chi", "Anka", "red koji", "red Chinese rice", or "red mold rice" in several countries. The functions of Monascus purpureus NTU 568 fermented products included reducing blood serum cholesterol, anti-fatigue, decreasing amyloid β peptide accumulation, prevention of obesity development, and prevention of diabetes development. Monascus spp. can produce several bioactive metabolites, such as pigments (red pigment, monascorubramine and rubropunctanin; orange pigment, monascorubrin and rubropunctanin; yellow pigment, ankaflavin and monascin), isoflavones, polyketidemonacolins, dimerumic acid, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). According to the ancient Chinese medical book, dioscorea (Dioscorea batatas Dence) has been used as a traditional medical herb substance, health food supplement, and functional food for the treatment of diabetes in China. Monascus sp. produced different secondary metabolites by different substrates. Our research group has reported that by HPLC analysis, in comparison to the red mold rice and red mold adlay, the red mold dioscorea had high levels of anti-inflammatory yellow pigments, monascin and ankaflavin.
Beneficial effect in Alzheimer's disease management
Rats with an Aβ40 injection into the brain were used as the animal model of Alzheimer's disease. Our research group has employed water maze and passive avoidance learning to study the improvements in memory and learning ability made by an ethanol extract of red mold fermented product by M. purpureus NTU 568, while observing the accumulation of Aβ40 in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex after the end of experiment. After 28 days of the intracerebral injection of Aβ40, the feeding of either high-dosage (755 mg/kg/day) or low-dosage (151 mg/kg/day) red mold fermented product effectively improved the Aβ-induced impairment of memory and learning ability in the rats, as demonstrated in the water maze and passive avoidance learning. Red mold fermented product also restored the activity of acetylcholinesterase induced by Aβ40 in the rat cerebral cortex and hippocampus, increased the oxidant and antioxidant levels, and restored the activity of superoxide dismutase. Finally, the section staining of the rat cerebral cortex and hippocampus showed that red mold fermented product can effectively reduce the accumulation of Aβ40 in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus.
Beneficial effect in cholesterol management
The red mold dioscorea which produces high contents of yellow pigments is reported to be better than traditional fermented red mold rice in terms of hypolipidemic and anti-atherogenic capacity. In our previous experiment, each hamster was fed 96 mg/kg/day (one times the dose) of red mold rice and red mold dioscorea, a dosage equivalent to an intake of 1 g of red mold fermented products per adult per day. After 8 weeks of feeding red mold rice and red mold dioscorea to the hamsters, it was found that 0.5 times the dosage of red mold dioscorea not only increased serum HDL-C but also reduced the TC, TG, and LDL-C levels, with an inhibitory activity of 13.8%, 38.7%, and 43.1%, respectively. Atherosclerotic plaque in aorta caused by oxidative stress and lipid accumulation is the atheromatous lesions in atherosclerosis. Red mold dioscorea treatment have decreased the area of atheromatous lesions by 73.3%. During the Monascus fermentation process, it produced a large number of antioxidants (including dimerumic acid, tannin and phenol,etc.), showing that red mold dioscorea can be effective in preventing oxidative stress caused by a high-fat diet and lipid accumulation on the blood vessel wall caused by atherosclerosis.
Beneficial effect in blood pressure management
In our previous study, spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) was used as the animal model, and a non-invasive blood pressure machine was used to measure the rats' tail pulse. The rats were fed red mold dioscorea (fermented by M. purpureus NTU 568), to assess the short acting (24 h) and long-acting (8 weeks) blood pressure lowering effect of red mold dioscorea. In the short-acting feeding of red mold dioscorea, one times the dosage (150 mg/kg) can reduce the systolic blood pressure by 13 mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure by 19 mmHg. After 8 weeks of feeding red mold dioscorea, the systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were significantly reduced by 27 mmHg and 22 mmHg, respectively, and both the short-term (24 h) and long-term (8 weeks) feeding of red mold dioscorea had a significant effect in lowering the blood pressure. Vascular remodeling in aorta caused by hypertension is the vascular lesions invascular disease. The aorta tissue of SHRs was removed and collected, and then a thin section was performed. The results showed that the elastin fibers in the aorta of Monascus-fermented product-treated SHRs were significantly straighter than control animals.These results suggest that red mold dioscorea has beneficial effects on anti-hypertensives.
Beneficial effect in blood glucose management
In our previous study, we found that the different red mold-fermented products played a role in the regulation of blood glucose and insulin resistance. After 8 weeks of feeding red mold dioscorea to the diabetic rats, it was found that red mold dioscorea reduced the blood glucose levels, with an inhibitory activity of 16.9%. The diabetic rats showed higher reactive oxygen species and lower activities of glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase in pancreas as compared to normal and red mold-fermented dioscorea treated rats. These results indicated that red mold-fermented dioscorea not only regulate hyperglycemia but also provide the prevention effects of STZ induced pancreatic damage.