The humble mushroom – a huge and highly undervalued human potential. They are able to help us solve naysur & # 39; serious problems. And at the same time, and many smaller ones.
Underfoot Jim Anderson is a monster that lives long, long ago. By the time the Persian king Xerxes fought with the ancient Greeks, he was born. And it weighs more than three blue whale (such whales weigh about 150 tons each – Ed.).
This monster is very voracious, he literally eats his way through the vast forest areas. But it's not a beast. This fungus whose mycelium penetrates the soil to a vast area.
Anderson arrived in Crystal Falls to Michigan to visit again very seemingly ordinary part of the forest, under which between living organism, scientists discovered about 30 years ago – the mycelium of Armillaria gallica, mushrooms species.
These fungi are found almost everywhere – in Asia, North America, Europe, wherever found dead or dying trees, helping to speed up the decay and decomposition.
Often a sign of their presence – a yellow-brown caps on the legs, rising from the ground to a height of 10 cm.
If Anderson and his colleagues visited the Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they found that some & # 39; I Armillaria gallica, scattered their relatives under the cover of fallen leaves in the forest, in fact – the only giant organism.
By then Scientists estimate that it covers an area of 91 acre (0.405 acre = 1 ha), weighed 100 tons, and it was at least 1500 years.
At that time it was the largest organism on the planet (the current record is held like mushrooms in Oregon).
Now, however, scientists took new samples, found that this Armillaria gallica even bigger and older than they previously thought.
Here are the new results of their research: the fungus has appeared four times larger and older in 1000. Total weight of it (with mycelium) – about 400 tons.
However, this is only the surface. The main thing is that a huge mushroom, might open the way for us to victory over one of our powerful enemies – cancer.
The secret of Armillaria gallica
Canadian researchers, seems to have found the secret of this size and age of Armillaria gallica.
Namely, these mushrooms have a surprisingly low level mutations. Thus they avoid potentially damaging changes in DNA.
As is known, in organisms as they grow, the cells divide, giving rise to new subsidiaries. C may be damaged, which leads to errors, it creeps into the genetic code of DNA in cells over time – i.e. mutations.
It is believed that this is one of the basic mechanisms operating in the aging process.
Apparently, Armillaria gallica with Crystal Falls has built resist such DNA damage.
The scientists tracked 15 samples taken in different parts of the forest, in the genetic code Armillaria gallica changed only 163 characters with 100 Mill. Mutation frequency was remarkably low.
Anderson and his colleagues believe that the study of the fungus has a mechanism that helps to protect your DNA from damage that creates one of the most stable in the genomes of our nature.
Although yet to figure out what kind of mechanism, amazing stability of DNA Armillaria gallica offers a different look on the human health problem.
It is known that for certain types of cancer mutations are getting out of control of the organism. A Armillaria gallica can, according to Anderson, to provide the necessary resistance to the widening of mutated cells.
Learning how Armillaria evolved to such ultrastable state of their DNA, scientists will not only understand the instability of cancer cells, but also, perhaps, to find new ways to treat cancer.
Mushrooms – owners of our planet?
Mushrooms – one of the most common inhabitants of our planet. The total biomass of these (often very young!), The body is superior to the whole animal biomass. In addition, we are constantly discovering new species of fungi.
It is believed that 3.8 million species of fungi are currently more than 90% unknown to science. For one only in 2017 have been identified and described in 2189 by researchers of new species.
In a recent report published by the staff of the British Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (London), says that a person uses mushrooms hundreds of different ways – from paper production to clean the dirty clothes.
About 15% of all vaccines and biological drugs capable of receiving – from fungi.
Perhaps the most famous of penicillin, which was discovered in the study of common household mold – one that is often formed to soak the bread. Mushrooms are now getting dozens of other antibiotics.
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Mushrooms – a source for medicines for migraine and statins needed for the treatment of heart disease.
One fairly new immunosuppressive agents (drugs that suppress the immune response), which is used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, was designed with the connection created by a fungus which infects cicada larvae.
At the same time, according to some scientists, while we see only the tip of the iceberg: the mushrooms are able to offer us a lot more – including for the treatment of viral diseases such as influenza, polio, measles, mumps, and mononucleosis.
Already identified numerous species of fungi with the potential to help fight such is now considered incurable diseases, such as HIV and Zika virus. And this, according to scientists, – a matter of time.
Not only for health
The fungus, which is found in the soil in a landfill in the vicinity of Islamabad (Pakistan) probably carries a solution to the increasing pollution of the environment by plastic waste, in particular, to accumulate in the oceans.
Microbiologist from Islamabad Faria Hassan found that Aspergillus tubingensis can quickly destroy the polyurethane.
This type of plastic which is applied in various fields, from the packing of furniture to adhesive tapes and films, can pollute the soil for years and the water itself is not destroyed.
Found the fungus does the job for a few weeks. Now Hassan and his colleagues are working on how to organize the process on an industrial scale.
Mikrosporovye other fungi such as Pestalotiopsis, usually grow on rotten ivy leaves, too, as it turned out, like plastic.
This gives the suras & # 39; serious hope that with the help of mushroom man be able to solve the pollution problem, or at least delay the threatening growth of the landfill, in which our planet turns.
In fact, in fungi, it turns out, a great appetite for everything that we are polluting our world – with their help, you can even return to life areas contaminated by radiation.
But the most important thing here is that the fungi can also deliver us from the need to make the most polluting plastic.
Several teams of scientists in different regions of the world are now trying to determine how to apply the main element of mushrooms – they spawn, spawn, something like the network, woven from the finest yarns. Replace the plastic bag would be a natural material perfectly.
Durable than concrete
The filaments of the mycelium – a kind of natural glue that holds everything in that they germinate.
In 2010, the American company Ecovative Design launched a study of how to use this property fungi to set up production of material, alternative plastic packaging.
The result of the initial phase of their work – MycoComposite, which are used as a basis for hemp processing waste.
They are packaged in multiple forms, together with the spores of fungi and allowed to grow for nine days.
Once the material rises to the desired size, it is subjected to heat-that it did not grow further.
The resulting material – biodegradable. He is already being used by some companies – for example, Dell packs their computers in it.
Ecovative Design developed a method of growing mycelium and converting it into foams, useful as thermal insulation, as well as fabrics, imitating natural leather. That's only in contrast to the present to receive such skin does not take years, and the days.
Skin fungi are already interested in well-known designers such as Stella McCartney.
A fashion footwear Liz Siokeyzhlo recently used mycelium in its collection, which offers a new look at the trend in the 1970s, Moon Boot.
Atanassov Atanassov from the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, with the help of fungi got new types of dressings and bandages for the treatment of chronic wounds.
In addition, she found that the harder the substance, which is proposed for the processing of mushrooms, the harder the resulting material that opens up new perspectives.
MycoWorks California company is working on the creation of materials from fungi.
Combining wood with mycelium, the company managed to create refractory bricks, which strongly than normal concrete.
Moreover, the fungi can be used in conjunction with traditional building materials to get "smart concrete" itself "to heal", sealed the crack grows the mycelium.
"The possibilities are truly unlimited use of the mycelium, – says Gitartha Kalita, bioengineering from India, who with colleagues using mushrooms to create a building material, wood alternative.
"What we now call the agricultural waste – is actually an incredibly rich resource on which to grow mushrooms – he says – We have already dealt sur & # 39;. Serious damage to the environment of our planet Mushrooms also can turn waste into something. really valuable to us. "
Read the original of this article is available in English on the website BBC Future.