Meniere’s disease (MD) represents a clinical syndrome characterized by episodes of spontaneous vertigo, associated with fluctuating, low to medium frequencies sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), tinnitus, and aural fullness affecting one or both ears. To date, the cause of MD remains substantially unknown, despite increasing evidence suggesting that oxidative stress and neuroinflammation may be central to the development of endolymphatic hydrops and consequent otholitic degeneration and displacement in the reuniting duct, thus originating the otolithic crisis from vestibular otolithic organs utricle or saccule. As a starting point to withstand pathological consequences, cellular pathways conferring protection against oxidative stress, such as vitagenes, are also induced, but at a level not sufficient to prevent full neuroprotection, which can be reinforced by exogenous nutritional approaches. One emerging strategy is supplementation with mushrooms. Mushroom preparations, used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, are endowed with various biological actions, including antioxidant, immunostimulatory, hepatoprotective, anticancer, as well as antiviral effects. For example, therapeutic polysaccharopeptides obtained from Coriolus versicolor
are commercially well established. In this study, we examined the hypothesis that neurotoxic insult represents a critical primary mediator operating in MD pathogenesis, reflected by quantitative increases of markers of oxidative stress and cellular stress response in the peripheral blood of MD patients. We evaluated systemic oxidative stress and cellular stress response in MD patients in the absence and in the presence of treatment with a biomass preparation from Coriolus
. Systemic oxidative stress was estimated by measuring, in plasma, protein carbonyls, hydroxynonenals (HNE), and ultraweak luminescence, as well as by lipidomics analysis of active biolipids, such as lipoxin A4 and F2-isoprostanes, whereas in lymphocytes we determined heat shock proteins 70 (Hsp72), heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), thioredoxin (Trx), and γ-GC liase to evaluate the systemic cellular stress response. Increased levels of carbonyls, HNE, luminescence, and F2-isoprostanes were found in MD patients with respect to the MD plus Coriolus
-treated group. This was paralleled by a significant (p
< 0.01) induction, after Coriolus
treatment, of vitagenes such as HO-1, Hsp70, Trx, sirtuin-1, and γ-GC liase in lymphocyte and by a significant (p
< 0.05) increase in the plasma ratio-reduced glutathione (GSH) vs. oxidized glutathione (GSSG). In conclusion, patients affected by MD are under conditions of systemic oxidative stress, and the induction of vitagenes after mushroom supplementation indicates a maintained response to counteract intracellular pro-oxidant status. The present study also highlights the importance of investigating MD as a convenient model of cochlear neurodegenerative disease. Thus, searching innovative and more potent inducers of the vitagene system can allow the development of pharmacological strategies capable of enhancing the intrinsic reserve of vulnerable neurons, such as ganglion cells to maximize antidegenerative stress responses and thus providing neuroprotection.