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BBC – Future – An unexpected magic of mushrooms

Under the foot of Jim Anderson is a monster. He is alive since the king of Persia Xerxes tried war against the Old Greeks and weighed more than three blue whales together. He has a keen interest, eating his way through a major forest weir. But this is not a long forgotten beast carried out of Greek mythology. It is a mushroom.

Anderson is standing in a senseless woodland stretch in Crystal Falls, in the Upper Michigan Peninsula. He is revisiting an organism living under the forest floor that he and his colleagues had almost 30 years ago. This house Armillaria gallica honey mushroom type.

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These common fungi are found in moderate woodlands throughout Asia, North America and Europe, where they grow on dead or dying wood, helping to decay decay. Often the only prominent sign above the ground are the clusters of cloudy yellow-brown fruiting bodies on a stool-boy that grow up to 1

0cm high.

When Anderson and his colleagues visited Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they found that in the first instance a rich community of Armillaria gallica was flourishing the suckler mill and upper forest floor soil – in fact – a huge single specimen. They estimated that it covered an area of ​​about 91 acres, weighed 100 tons and was at least 1,500 years old. He set a new record at the time for the largest organism on the planet – the fungus now has a similar fungus in a forest in Oregon

“There was a lot of disturbance at the time,” Anderson said. “Our paper came out on Workers' Day in April so that everyone thought it was lying. Then in 2015 we thought we should go back and test our view that this is a permanent and permanent organism. ”

The new results showed that it was four times bigger, 1,000 years older and if they were to collect about 400 tonnes [19659009] They returned to the site again and again between 2015 and 2017 , taking samples from distant points across the forest and then running the DNA they got through a checker back at their lab at the University of Toronto. From their first study in the 1980s, genetic analysis has progressed, with new techniques making the process much cheaper, faster and providing more information.

His new samples showed that the Armillaria gallica did not identify an individual, but it was much larger and older than they had predicted. The new results showed that it was four times bigger, 1,000 years older and, if collected, about 400 tonnes.

But the analysis showed an even more surprising view, which could help us people in our medicines against one of modern medicines of the greatest foes – cancer.

Canadian researchers discovered the secret behind unusual size and age Armillaria gallica . The fungus seems to have a very low mutation rate – which means that changes that could harm its genetic code are avoided.

As organisms grow, their cells are divided into two to produce new daughter cells. Over time, the DNA in the cells leading to errors, known as mutations, can be damaged into the genetic code. This is considered one of the main mechanisms for aging.

But it seems that there may be some against this DNA damage by Armillaria gallica Crystal Falls. In 15 samples taken from parts of the forest and ordered by the team, only 163 letters of the 100 million in genetic code Armillaria gallica remained unchanged.

The fungus has a mechanism that helps to protect DNA from damage, giving one of the most stable genomes in the natural world

“The frequency of mutation is much lower than we could imagine , ”Anderson said. “To have this low level of mutation, we would expect the cells to share once each growth meter. But it is wonderful that the cells are microscopic – a few microfiches in size – so you would need millions of them. ”

Anderson and his team believe that the fungus has a mechanism that helps DNA from damage, giving it one of the most stable genomes in the natural world. While they are still to be solved exactly what this is, Armillaria gallica genomic stability could bring new insights into human health

In some cancers, riot mutations can be run in Typical methods such as routine checking of DNA breakdown and confirming

Armillaria gallica could provide a possible resistance to chronic cancer instability,” says Anderson. “If you looked at a line of age-old cancer cells, it would be as full as mutations that you might not be able to recognize. Armillaria is opposite. It is possible that the evolutionary changes could be selected which enabled them to be like this and compare them with cancer cells. ”

Not only could this allow scientists to learn more about the things that go wrong in cancer cells but it could also provide potential

While Anderson and his colleagues are not planning this work make themselves – they are leaving it to others who are younger and more qualified to understand the genetic complexities of cancer – their results give an interesting insight into non-preserved fungus power to help humanity

The biomass Combined of these fungi more than all the animals on the planet were combined

Fungi are some of the most common organisms on our planet – the combined biomass of few is often tiny, organisms are more than all organisms the planet is put together. And we are constantly discovering new fungi. More than 90% of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world are currently unknown. In 2017 alone, scientists were describing 2,189 new species

A recent report published by the UK National Botanic Gardens Kew in London revealed that fungi have already been used in hundreds of different ways, from paper to do to help clean our dirty clothes. About 15% of vaccines and drugs are biologically produced from fungi. The complex proteins used to stimulate an immune response are grown on, for example, hepatitis B virus in yeast cells, which are part of the fungal family.

B-penicillin may be the known antibiotic. a common type of house model that often grows on old bread. Fungi of many other types of antibiotics are now being produced

are also sources of treatment for migraines and statins for treating heart disease. One new immune, which is used to treat multiple sclerosis, has been developed from a compound produced by a fungus that infects cicada larvae.

“This fungus is part of the family that goes into and takes insects,” says Tom Prescott, a researcher who evaluates plant use and fungi at the National Botanic Gardens. “They produce these compounds to prevent the insect immune system and can also be used in humans.”

But some researchers believe that we did not have to scratch the surface that fungi can offer us.

Compounds produced by fungi can destroy viruses that cause diseases such as influenza, polio, mumps, measles and glandular fever

“Activity [fungi] was reported to be against viral diseases,” says Riikka Linnakoski, a forest pathologist at the Institute of Natural Resources Finland. Compounds produced by fungi can destroy viruses that cause diseases such as influenza, polio, mumps, measles and rubella. Many fungi were also found to produce compounds that could treat diseases that are not currently cured, such as HIV and the Zika virus.

“I believe that these represent only a small fraction of the full sections of bioactive compounds,” says Linnakoski. “Fungi are a huge source of various bioactive molecules, which could be used as antivirus in the future.”

She is part of a research team investigating the possibility of growing fungi in mangrove forests. Colombia to be new sources of anti-virus agents. However, these targets were not achieved. Although fungi have been well researched as a source of antibiotics that act against bacteria, no antivirus drugs obtained from a fungus have been allowed

Linnakoski puts the community who seem to leave the difficulty of many collect fungus and grow from the natural environment and the lack of historical communication between mycologists and the virology community. However, she believes that it will only be a while before a fungal-based anti-viral drug enters her clinics.

Linnakoski also believes that searching for new species of fungus in unhappy environments such as in the sediment on the seabed in some of the deepest parts of the ocean, or in very variable conditions of mangrove forests, compounds. get more exciting.

“It is thought that the large fungal conditions encourage the production of unique and unprecedented secondary metabolites,” she says. “Unfortunately, many of the indigenous ecosystems that have great potential for modern bioactive compounds, such as mangrove forests, are declining at alarming rates.”

Fungi growing in soil at a stuffed site land on the edge of Islamabad, Pakistan's polyurethane plastic can be quickly broken down

But fungi have uses that can cope with other problems that are beyond our health.

A fungus that has been growing in soil at a landfill site on the edge of Islamabad, in Pakistan, can solve its terrible levels of plastic pollution by taking up our ocean. Fariha Hasan, a microbiologist at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, discovered the fungi Aspergillus tubingensis polyurethane plastic can be broken down quickly.

These plastics, which use a wide range of products including foams, electronics cases, adhesives and films, can be hung in soil and in seawater for years. However, it was found that the fungi were broken down within weeks. Hasan and her team are now investigating how to use the fungi to degrade plastic waste on a large scale. Other plastics, such as Pestalotiopsis microspore which usually grow on decaying ivy leaves, appear to be very keen, and hopefully they can be used to address our existing waste problem. increase.

Indeed, mushrooms have a good taste of the pollution we pollute our world. Species that can clean up soil oil pollution, degrade heavy harmful metals, eat persistent pesticides and even help rehabilitate radioactive sites were discovered

Mushrooms, however, could help avoid some plastic in the first

A number of groups around the world are trying to take advantage of a key feature of fungi – the veneer-like tissues they produce – to create materials that can substitute for plastic packaging. As fungi grow, these mycelium thread out a branch, to hunt in hooks and crabs in the soil, and to tie it together.

In 2010, Eco Design began exploring how these could be used to combine natural waste products such as rice lichens or wood chips to produce an alternative to polystyrene packaging. MycoComposite emerged in their early work, using remaining pieces of hemp plant as the source material.

These are packed in reusable molds together with fungal spores and flour, and are then grown for nine days. As they do so, they provide enzymes that begin to digest the waste. Once the material is grown in the desired shape, it is treated with heat to dry the material and stop further growth. The resulting mushroom packaging is biodegradable and is already being used by companies such as Dell to package their computers.

The company has also developed a way to grow breeds in foams that can be used in trainers or insulation, and fabrics that imitate them. leather. Working with Bolt Threats firm with a sustainable fabric company, it combines starch with cereal waste, making it a tanned and compressed mat. The whole process takes days other than the years needed for animal leather.

Stella McCartney is among the designers who want this leather designer and mushroom shoe, Liz Ciokajlo, who has recently used to use mycelium with modern restoration to make the moon moon moon fashion trend. .

The characteristics of the yeast may be sung by changing what is to digest

Athanassia Athanassiou, a subject scientist in the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, is using fungus to develop new types of bandage

But She also discovered that the characteristics of the boroum material can be sung by changing what she has to pay. The most difficult thing is to digest a substance – such as wood chips rather than potato peas – the sharper material that results in the mycelium material.

It raises the prospect of using fungi for stronger purposes.

California MycoWorks is based on routes developing ways to convert mushrooms into building materials. By combining wood with mycelium, they were able to create bricks with fire extinguishers which are more stringent than traditional concrete.

Tien Huynh, a biotechnologist at the Royal Institute of Technology Melbourne in Australia, has led a project to create a similar fungal brick by combining thyma from Trametes versicolor with rice hulls and a glass of crushed waste. houses in Australia and around the world – termites. Due to the silica content of rice and glass, the material is no more tasty with themes, making billions of dollars damage houses every year.

“In our research, we used these fungi to produce new enzymes and bio-characteristics for different properties including sound absorption, strength and flexibility,” Huynh says. Her team is also working on using fungi to produce chitin – a substance used to concentrate foods and in many cosmetics.

“Chicken is usually processed from shellfish, which has hypolactic properties,” she says. “Chitin does not contain fungi. We will have more fun-based products later in the year but it is certainly a great resource that is not used. "

Fungi can also be used with traditional building materials to create" clever concrete "which can cure itself as fungi that grow into any cracks creating fresh calcium carbonate – the core raw material in concrete – to repair the damage

“The possibilities of an uncontrollable prophylase,” says Extreme Kalita, a bio-expert at Assam Engineering University and Assam University Don Bosco in Guwahati, India. He and his colleagues are using fungi and grass waste to trade wood for construction. “Everything we now call on agricultural waste that can grow mushrooms is an incredible resource. Our environment has already been degraded and so if we can replace existing materials with something in a sustainable manner. They can build our waste and turn it into something that is very valuable to us.

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