Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Brian Cohen




fungi, mushroom, cordyceps, medicine, pharmacology


Cordyceps sinensis is a mushroom which contains the compound cordycepin (3’-deoxyadenosine), an analogue of adenosine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cordycepin has multipurpose pharmacological uses including purported anti-tumor effects. In the present study, cordycepin was extracted from the wild mushroom as well as from various commercially available cultivated extracts. Previous research in this lab has demonstrated that cultivated extracts contain less cordycepin than the wild mushroom. However, it is unclear if the decrease in cordycepin correlates with decreased activity. To measure anti-tumor activity, extracts were used to treat human breast cancer cells (MCF-7 cells). In other labs, cordycepin has been shown to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death in MCF-7 cells. Activity was evaluated using light microscopy to observe cell morphology and DNA electrophoresis to discern DNA laddering, both of which should be hallmarks of apoptosis. Using these methods the anticipated outcome is to determine if there is a dose and time dependent manner to the cordycepin-induced cell death as well as differential effects across the various cordycepin supplements which may contain other active compounds. These hypotheses were supported by our data with a dose-dependent cell death and marked differential in apoptotic potential among the various types of cordycepin sources.