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BBC – Future – magic of unexpected mushrooms

There is a monster at the foot of Jim Anderson. The Persian king Xerxes has survived since fighting ancient Greeks and weighting three or more blue whales. It has a huge appetite and goes through huge forests. But this is not a long-forgotten animal due to Greek mythology. It is mushroom.

Anderson is located in the wooded area of ​​Crystal Falls, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He is returning to visit the creatures living under the forest floor that he and his colleagues discovered nearly 30 years ago. This is the hometown of. Limb gallia, A kind of honey mushroom.

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This common fungus is found in temperate rainforests throughout Asia, North America and Europe, and grows in dead or dying trees, helping to speed up decay. Often the only visible mark on the ground is a scaly yellow toad-shaped fruiting body that grows up to 10 cm in height.

When Anderson and his colleagues visited Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they found that at first they seemed to be a rich community. Limb gallia The fact that it flourished under the mulch and mulch of the forest floor was in fact a huge individual specimen. They have an area of ​​about 91 acres, weighing 100 tons and estimated at least 1,500 years ago. It set a new record for the largest organism on earth at the time. Similar fungi in the forests of Oregon now have records.

Anderson said, "At that time there was a significant ripple." Our paper appeared on April Fool's Day. So everyone was kidding. Then in 2015, we thought we should go back and test our prediction that it is truly a single organism. "

The new result is four times bigger, 1,000 years older, and about 400 tons

They returned to the scene several times between 2015 and 2017, sampled at remote locations around the forest, and then returned DNA from a sequencer in a laboratory at the University of Toronto. Since it was first studied in the 1980s, genetic analysis has gone beyond limits by using new technologies to make processes much cheaper and faster and to provide more information.

Their new sample Limb gallia They found one individual, but it was much bigger and longer than it predicted. The new results are four times bigger, 1,000 years older, and together they will weigh about 400 tons.

But this analysis has created even more incredible insights that can help us in fighting the biggest enemy of modern medicines – cancer.

Canadian researchers have discovered what is behind them. Limb gallia& # 39; sextraordinary size and age. This fungus appears to have an extremely low mutation rate. This means that potentially damaging the genetic code can be avoided.

As the organism grows, the cells are divided into two to form new daughter cells. Over time, DNA in the cell may become damaged, leading to errors known as mutations into the genetic code. It is thought to be one of the main mechanisms that cause aging.

However, Limb gallia At Crystal Falls, there may be an inherent resistance to this DNA damage. 15 samples from remote forests were ordered by the team, Limb gallia It changed.

Fungi are one of the most stable genomes in nature with a mechanism to protect DNA from damage

"The mutation frequency is much lower than we can imagine," says Anderson. "To have this low-level mutation, we would expect that the cells would be averaged once for every unit of growth, but it's amazing: since cells are only a few micrometers in size under a microscope, Required. "

Anderson and his team believe that the fungus has a mechanism to protect DNA from DNA damage, one of the most stable genomes in nature. They have to pinpoint exactly what this is, but the amazing stability of the genome Limb gallia It can provide new insights into human health.

In some cancers, mutations can cause cell disruption as the normal mechanism of identifying and treating DNA is destroyed.

"Limb gallia Potential counterpoint to the instability of the infamous cancer can be provided. "Anderson says," If you look at the lines of cancer cells as you get older, you will not be able to recognize it because there are too many mutations. Armeriaia It is at the opposite extreme. It may be possible to find out these allowed evolutionary changes and compare them with cancer cells. "

This allows scientists not only to learn more about what went wrong in cancer cells, but also to provide a new way to treat cancer.

Anderson and his colleagues are not planning on doing their own, but they are leaving this study to young, qualified people who can understand the genetic complexity of cancer. Their findings provide a glimpse of the undeveloped mold ability to help humanity.

Mixed biomass of fungi is the sum of biomass of all animals on earth.

Fungi are some of the most common creatures on earth. The combined biomass of these creatures is larger than the combined biomass of all the animals on Earth. And we are always finding new molds. More than 90% of the estimated 3.8 million molds in the world are unknown to science at this time. In 2017, only 2,189 species of fungi were described by scientists.

According to a recent report by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, mold has already been used in hundreds of ways to help clean dirty clothes from making paper. Approximately 15% of all vaccines and biologically produced drugs are derived from fungi. For example, a complex protein that causes an immune response to hepatitis B virus grows in yeast cells that are part of the fungal lineage.

Probably the best known is the antibiotic penicillin, which is found in common types of house molds, often grown on old bread. Dozens of different types of antibiotics are now produced by mold.

They are also the source of statin therapy for the treatment of migraine and heart disease. Relatively new immunosuppressants used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis have been developed from compounds produced by fungi that infect cicadella larvae.

Tom Prescott, a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, is evaluating the use of plants and fungi. "They are part of this fungus that turns into insects." They produce this compound to suppress the insect immune system, It turns out that it can be used by humans. "

But some researchers think we barely scratched the surface that molds can provide us.

Compounds produced by fungi can destroy viruses that cause illnesses such as flu, polio, mumps, measles and fever

"already [fungi] "Said Riikka Linnakoski, a forest pathologist at the Natural Resources Research Institute in Finland." Compounds produced by the fungus are known to be a potent cause of flu, polio, mumps, measles and fever A number of fungi have been found to produce compounds that can cure diseases that can not currently be treated, such as HIV and the Zika virus.

"I think these represent a small part of the overall armory of bioactive compounds," said Linnakoski. "Fungi are a vast source of diverse bioactive molecules that can be used as antiviral agents in the future."

She is part of a research team investigating whether fungus growing in the mangrove forests of Colombia can be a source of new antiviral drugs. However, this goal has not yet been realized. Although mold has been well studied as a source of antibiotics for bacteria, antiviral agents extracted from molds have not been approved.

Linnakoski places this apparent omission in the scientific community's difficulties in collecting and growing many fungi from the natural environment and the historical lack of communication between mycologists and viral academics. But she believes that it is a matter of time until antibiotics based on fungus enter the clinic.

Linnakoski can also find compounds that are more interesting to find new species of fungi in some of the deepest parts of the ocean, or in environments with poor conditions, such as seabed sediments, under extreme changes in mangrove forests .

"Extreme conditions are thought to stimulate fungi to produce a unique, structurally unprecedented secondary metabolite," she says. "Unfortunately, many indigenous ecosystems that have great potential for the discovery of new bioactive compounds such as mangroves are disappearing at an alarming rate."

Soil-growing fungi at the landfills outside of Islamabad, Pakistan, can quickly disintegrate polyurethane plastics.

However, molds have a purpose to solve other problems beyond our health.

Soil-growing fungi in landfills outside of Islamabad, Pakistan, can be a solution to the amazing level of plastic pollution that clog our oceans. Microbiologist Fariha Hasan of Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad found fungi. Aspergillus tubingensis Polyurethane plastic can be disassembled quickly.

Used to make a variety of products, including furniture foam, electronics cases, adhesives and film, the plastic has been dangling from soil and seawater for years. However, the fungus disintegrated within a few weeks. Hasan and her team are now investigating how to use fungi for large scale decomposition of plastic waste. Other fungi Pestalotiopsis microsporeIvy leaves grow when rotting. We also have a tremendous appetite for plastic and hope to solve our growing waste problem.

In fact, mushrooms are quite tasty for the pollution we pollute our world. Species have been found that help to remove oil contamination from the soil, decompose harmful heavy metals, consume pesticide residues, and even repair radioactive sites.

However, mushrooms can also help you avoid having to use some plastics from scratch.

Several organizations around the world are now attempting to develop core functions of molds such as mycelium veins to create materials that can replace plastic packaging materials. As the mold grows, this hypha splits out and investigates every corner of the soil and ties them together. They are natural glue.

In 2010, Ecovative Design began looking for ways to produce alternatives to polystyrene packaging by bundling together natural wastes such as rice bark and wood chips. Initial work evolved into MycoComposite. MycoComposite uses the rest of the hemp plant as a base material.

These are packaged in reusable molds with mold spores and flour to grow for nine days. They produce enzymes that begin to digest waste as they do so. Once the material has grown to 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 like Dell to pack computers.

The company has also developed a method to grow mycelium with foam that can be used for trainer or insulation, leather imitated fabrics. Working with the sustainable fabric Bolt Threats, you can combine waste corn stalks with mycelium to grow into tanned and compacted mats. It takes a few days to complete the process rather than the period required for animal skins.

Stella McCartney uses this mushroom leather and shoe designer Liz Ciokajlo to find a designer who uses mycelium to make a modern reconstruction of the 1970s Moon Boot fashion trend in the late 1970s.

It is possible to adjust the quality of the mycelium material by changing what mycelium needs to digest.

Athanassia Athanassiou, a material scientist at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, has used fungi to develop new types of bandages for chronic wound healing.

But she also found that it was possible to adjust the quality of mycelial material by changing what it had to digest. The more difficult it is for molds like wood chips to digest than potato peels, the stronger the resultant mycelium.

It increases the prospect of using mold for a robust purpose.

MycoWorks, California, has developed a method of making mushrooms into building materials. By fusing mycelium and wood, they were able to create a flame-resistant, harder brick than conventional concrete.

Tien Huynh, a biotechnologist at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, Trametes versicolor There are rice husks and crushed waste glass.

She says it not only provides cheap, environmentally friendly building materials, but also helps solve other problems in Australia and around the world – termites. The silica content of rice and glass alleviates the appetite for termites and causes billions of dollars in damage every year.

"In our study, we used fungi to produce enzymes and new biological structures for a variety of properties including sound absorption, strength and flexibility," says Huynh. Her team is also working to produce chitin using mold. Chitin is a substance used to thicken food and many cosmetics.

"Usually chitin is processed in allergenic shells," she says. "Mold chitin is not, and we will have additional mold-based products later this year, but it's a less attractive resource to use."

The mold is also used in conjunction with traditional building materials to produce fresh calcium carbonate (a key ingredient in concrete) to repair damage by creating "smart concrete" that can become moldy and healed with mold.

Gitartha Kalita, a biomedical engineer at Assam Engineering College and Assam Don Bosco University in Guwahati, India, said, "The possibilities for us to use mycelium are endless. He and his colleagues built a building to replace wood with mold and hay excrement "Now everything we call agriculture waste is actually an amazing resource for mushrooms to grow. Because we have already aggravated the environment, we can replace the present material with a sustainable way of supplementing it. They can afford to waste our lives and turn it into something really valuable to us. "

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