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Takashi Mizuno 1931-2000


In Memoriam

Takashi Mizuno 1931-2000

Eminent plant biochemist and mycologist Takashi Mizuno died May 3, 2000 at the age of 69. He had focused a lifetime of research upon development of various antitumor substances from medicinal mushrooms, and is considered one of the 20th century's greatest scientists in his field.

Born in 1931 in the Japanese town of Gifu, he graduated from Gifu University in 1954, whereupon he became an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry at Shizuoka University. He remained there for the rest of his life. He earned his doctoral degree in 1962 from the Hokaido University, and in 1974 became a full professor in the Shizuoka University Department of Applied Biochemistry. He retired from that department in 1994, and continued his work there as professor emeritus.

Over the course of his career, he wrote 400 works, including 20 books and 22 patents. His review articles ranged from structural biochemistry, antitumor substances of plant and fungal origin, medicinal effects of mushrooms, food production, and more. He edited a number of basic textbooks, including Chemistry and Biochemistry of Mushrooms, which remains a major encyclopedic resource for the world's mushroom researchers, and special issues of Food Reviews International that were dedicated to medicinal mushrooms. In 1999, he became an editor of the newly founded International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms.

Mizuno traveled the world to collaborate with researchers. He was named an honorary professor of Changchun College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, where he lectured frequently. Mizuno also served as a board member of the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology and Agrochemistry and the Japan Society for Food Science and Technology.

"Medicines and food have a common origin," is a Japanese proverb he often quoted. The path of his research began in the mid-1950s with investigation of the biochemistry of Brassica oleracea seed-stalk growth. He then moved on to study carbohydrates of such plants as Lycoris radiata, several species of Allium, tobacco, tea and other agricultural and medicinal species, generating at least 10 articles on each. His thorough research delved into the carbohydrates from petals, roots, fruits and all other possible plant parts. In the 1960s, his attention turned to the chemical aspects of sugars, specifically monosaccharides of food value. He published the first paper about antitumor polysaccharides from Ganoderma fruit bodies in 1968. This interest evolved in the early 1980s to his main area of research: host-mediated antitumor polysaccharides of mushroom origin, that is, substances that do not fight cancer directly, but activate the immune functions of the host.

Having started with water-soluble fractions of Ganoderma applanatum and G. lucidum, his laboratory moved on to research G. tsugae, Agaricus blazei, Grifola frondosa, Fomitopsis pinicola Hohenbuehelia serotina, Polyporous confluens, Hericium erinaceum, Pleurotus sajor-caju, P. citrinopileatus, Tricholoma giganteum and Fuscoporia obliqua. Mizuno proved that many polysaccharides with antitomor and immunopotentiating qualities were synthesized in cultured mycelium no less, and, in fact, often better than in fruiting bodies. These results virtually revolutionized mushroom producing and processing businesses, with whom Mizuno consulted after his retirement.

In 1990, he published his first studies of antitumor activity of polysaccharides from the fruiting bodies of Agaricus blazei. After four years of study, Mizuno published his book Miracle Medicinal Mushroom about himematsutake, as it is known in Japan. In 2000, sales of A. blazei reached 25 billion Japanese Yen.

The International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms recently dedicated its Issue No. 4, 2000 as a special issue to Mizuno's memory.  -- Karen Robin, ABC