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The 'zombie fungi' saving lives – and the planet



She studies the soil, the trees and their roots in search of fungi, because they are actually part of her job.

"We want to collect as many diverse species of fungi as possible," said Landvik, a mycologist – a fungi scientist – at the biotech company Novozymes.

The human beekeepers in the production of food and alcohol, drugs, biofuels, washing detergents and even a famous childhood toy: LEGO

Fungi are unique beings, Landvik explained. They are really different from plants, they are really different, they are really, really, amazing. "

The best estimate that there are as many as 144 million have been discovered, according to this year's State of the World's Fungi report, compiled by staff members at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and several others.

Landvik says.

Landvik says.

In the wild, fungi are not able to move, so they compete against other fungi or bacteria for resources and, in doing so, produce toxic chemicals.

 Fungi could solve world's plastic crisis, scientists say

Once samples reach the laboratory, Landvik says they are grown inside a Petri dish and cut into pieces, which are then put into a liquid of nutrients such as minerals and vitamins and a carbon source to help the fungi grow.

Fungi grow by secreting enzymes – proteins that catalyze or speed up chemical reactions – which are captured by the liquid within the flask, allowing them to be studied in-depth.

It's like a "lottery ticket," she says, "as each discovery could turn up" the world, something that we can make a greener industry possible, and so on. "

For example, one of Landvik's colleagues came across an enzyme that can be used to reduce the formation of the chemical acrylamide, which forms when starchy food is baked or fried and can be carcinogenic. By searching for a homologous gene, they are called sequences of asparaginase, and hence the name of the enzyme. Acrylaway, a solution that reduces acrylicamide formation in food products at high temperatures, which can be cut up to 95%.
More famous is the discovery of penicillin in 1928, discovered when Alexander Fleming was found to be a strain of Penicillium notatum.

Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. ” data-src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-small-169.jpg” data-src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-medium-plus-169.jpg” data-src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-large-169.jpg” data-src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-exlarge-169.jpg” data-src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-super-169.jpg” data-src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-full-169.jpg” data-src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181206153100-fungi-saving-lives-and-tackling-pollution-intl-01-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″ src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7″/>

'Evil puppetmaster'

Tom Prescott, a research leader at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, UK, notes the many useful applications of fungi.

Broadly speaking, the three big topics are medicines, biotechnology and, in the broadest sense … fungi are really good for eating, "he explained, standing in Kew's fungarium, a large room filled with rows of boxes 1.25 million specimens of fungi from all around the world, including specimens collected by John Ray, Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt.

 Tom Prescott in the fungarium at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, which holds approximately 1.25 million specimens of fungi.

People are discovering fungi on a yearly basis, Prescott told CNN. They were not able to detect them using DNA. "

The cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, produced by the Aspergillus terreus fungus, or a hepatitis B vaccine that is used using yeast.

The drug is used to treat multiple autoimmune disease sclerosis – is derived from an eye-catching "zombie" fungus, isaria sinclairii, that invades an insect, takes it over and eventually acts like "evil puppetmaster," controlling the insect's body and behavior to perform tasks Meanwhile, the insect is kept alive, "so it's really gruesome," he said. "It's crucial that the fungus does not kill the insect, but it keeps it alive, so that's why it produces immunosuppressant chemicals." This chemical is myriocin, which also suppresses the human immune system.

 The multiple sclerosis drug Fingolimod, derived from chemicals produced by the insect-invading fungus Isaria sinclairii.

"A lot of fundamental biochemistry and even immunology is shared, surprisingly, even between insects and humans," he explained.

Fungi are also useful in converting one chemical into another, as it is in the production of vitamin B tablets.

There has been competition between human chemists and fungi which is better at producing pills and the fungi turned out

 A Cordyceps fungus invades a cricket to grow.

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Saving the environment

About the Author: Shauna M. McKelvey and Richard A. Murphy write in "Fungi: Biology and Applications." The book The humble mushroom is the newest superfood ” data-src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-small-169.jpg” data-src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-medium-plus-169.jpg” data-src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-large-169.jpg” data-src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-exlarge-169.jpg” data-src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-super-169.jpg” data-src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-full-169.jpg” data-src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/111021160523-cutting-mushrooms-vegetables-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″ src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7″/>

Enzymes' use in detergents dates to 1988. Lipase, derived from the fungus Thermomyces lanuginosus, is effective at removing fat stains from clothes.
Most detergents contain several enzymes, such as proteases, amylases, cellulases and lipases.

Fungi are natural degraders of waste material, Prescott said. In forests, they break down leaf by making enzymes called cellulases. "It happens that if you add cellulases to washing powders, and there is no such thing as the cotton threads of cotton fabrics, and it does give the appearance of cotton, it actually is."

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In September, the fungus Aspergillus tubingensis was discovered in Pakistan. A team of 100 scientists reported that it was possible to break down plastics as a polyester-based polyurethane, often used in refrigerator insulation, possibly in weeks rather than years, potentially making it a key player in the fight against the world's plastic waste problem.

Prescott The ultimate goal would be to create plastic-like materials from fungi – that can then be broken down by fungi. It's not clear that might be possible, but "that's what makes it really exciting," he added.

Fungus in farming

Another way to reduce pollution is by adding enzymes to animal feed, helping animals break down nutrients.

One fungal enzyme, phytase, breaks down is difficult chemicals and is particularly helpful for some phosphate-containing molecules that can not be digested by animals. When excreted, phosphates can get into waterways, where they cause bacterial growth. Prescott.

Landvik explained that the addition of phytase to release phosphate from feed and help animals reduces this essential nutrient pollution.

She believes enzymes in fungi are the key to making a number of industries more sustainable by replacing some industrial steps.

"And if you do not have an enzyme that can do the same." [1965]
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