20-Hydroxyecdysone, from Plant Extracts to Clinical Use: Therapeutic Potential for the Treatment of Neuromuscular, Cardio-Metabolic and Respiratory Diseases

Biomedicines. 2021 Apr 29;9(5):492. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9050492.


There is growing interest in the pharmaceutical and medical applications of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), a polyhydroxylated steroid which naturally occurs in low but very significant amounts in invertebrates, where it has hormonal roles, and in certain plant species, where it is believed to contribute to the deterrence of invertebrate predators. Studies in vivo and in vitro have revealed beneficial effects in mammals: anabolic, hypolipidemic, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, etc. The possible mode of action in mammals has been determined recently, with the main mechanism involving the activation of the Mas1 receptor, a key component of the renin-angiotensin system, which would explain many of the pleiotropic effects observed in the different animal models. Processes have been developed to produce large amounts of pharmaceutical grade 20E, and regulatory preclinical studies have assessed its lack of toxicity. The effects of 20E have been evaluated in early stage clinical trials in healthy volunteers and in patients for the treatment of neuromuscular, cardio-metabolic or respiratory diseases. The prospects and limitations of developing 20E as a drug are discussed, including the requirement for a better evaluation of its safety and pharmacological profile and for developing a production process compliant with pharmaceutical standards.

Keywords: COVID-19; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Mas1; anabolic; cardiometabolic diseases; diabetes; ecdysteroid; ecdysterone; osteoporosis; respiratory diseases; sarcopenia; β-ecdysone.

Publication types

  • Review