5 ways that fungus-based technology can change the world
Magic of mushrooms
Mushrooms aren’t just a delicious pizza topping. They can aid us in colonizing other planets, fight pollution from plastics and even save beleaguered honey bees.
Did you know that there are it is 10x more fungal species as plants? Every time we walk through the woodland, we step on kilometers of fungal threads? or that each time we breathe we breathe in as much as 10-fungal spores? If you don’t know, you’re not the only one.
The majority of us are unaware of the kingdom of fungi. It could be because to many the amazing organisms possess the “ick factor’. A majority of species of fungi decompose: they obtain their food by consuming nutrients from dying and dead organisms. We tend to think of anything related to decay as scary. Toadstools have been blamed for many a mischief that range from flowering virgins (not likely) and melting the liver within a couple of days (very likely, especially when you consume specific species).
Also, it is important to note the fact that fungi are predominantly microscopic. If we observe mushrooms within the natural environment, we’re viewing the body that produces the fruit of the organism that produces spores to reproduce. The rest is a huge mass of fungal threads, referred to as ‘hyphae that are hidden from view and eat nutrients from soil or in wood. It wasn’t until the advent of powerful microscopes that could view fungi in detail that we could comprehend their processes and be able to see the vastness of fungi truly is.
Fungi are found throughout the microbiome of every living thing and are even found in the air. However, they are mostly found in the soil and plant life, which is where they contribute to the well-being of the forest and field ecosystems, as well as to their recycling process of nutrients as well as to the sequestration of carbon.
Fungi play a role in a myriad of functions in nature. And the molecules they’ve evolved to perform these functions offer an array of possibilities that could aid in solving many of our world’s most difficult issues. It’s an exciting time when bio prospectors ecologists and entrepreneurs are thinking about what the future might be like. And what they’re finding as the next step could be fungal.
How could fungi help keep agriculture afloat in a world warming
You may not be aware that when you look at plants, you’re seeing fungi too. This is due to the fact that most of, if not all terrestrial plants have thread-like fungi in their cells. They feed on sugars that plants produce in exchange for which they assist plants to withstand stressors in the environment, such as drought, salt inundation and extreme temperatures.
If a plant is subjected to drought, it is afflicted by the oxidative stress, which is a result of an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals that can harm the cells of the plant. However, unlike us plants do not produce beneficial chemicals to fight the effects of stress. Instead, it’s the endophytic fungi that live between the cells of plants that produce the chemicals.
The impossibly thin fungal threads produce an array of substances that ease the stress of oxidative in plants, and are also involved in the chemistry which helps plants utilize water effectively. This is beneficial for plants that have the problem of drought as well as those who are suffering of extreme temperatures or exposure to salt.
Researchers have discovered that stress-reducing fungi from the endophyte can be transferred from host plants to crops so that they can thrive in a warmer world. For instance the fungus which allows panic grass to thrive in temperatures of up to 65degC also permits tomatoes to develop and produce under similar conditions.
To the fungus tomatoes and grass are the same thing and the consequences are immense for a warming planet, endophytic fungi could be able to safeguard your food sources.
How can fungi change the way we treat mental health
There hasn’t been an innovation in psychotherapy treatment in years. The majority of the drugs that are used today are the next generation of the drugs that were developed by the late 1950s. In the last fifteen years, an older drug class has been introduced in its own way which is one that’s the most exciting originates from the mushroom.
In the year 1950, scientists across the globe began a thorough examination of the potential of psilocybin as well as LSD to assist people suffering from various mental illnesses. The results were extremely promising, but as the drugs were introduced into the anti-establishment, rowdy youth culture of the 1960s less and fewer scientists were willing to collaborate with the drugs. In 1968 in the year 1968, it was the time that United Nations was urging countries to ban psilocybin and LSD.
However, as the times change, rigid postures soften and the drugs are being studied once more and with amazing results. Researchers have discovered that when coupled with treatment, psilocybin – – an endocrine found in more than 200 species belonging to the Psilocybe mushroom Genus – can help in the treatment of many conditions, such as OCD, PTSD, depression as well as anxiety due to life-threatening illnesses. There are ongoing studies to study its effects on anorexia nervosa as well as Alzheimer’s.
Psilocybin could be able to block certain neural pathways within the brain, and also involving other while at the same time it can alter rigid patterns of thinking like in the PTSD patient who replays painful events repeatedly. Psilocybin appears to trigger the rapid development of anti-addictive and antidepressant effects that last for a long time. With such results, authorities are watching.
The potential for fungi to revolutionize product and building design
It’s as easy as packing chips made of polystyrene. They are used to keep valuables safe during transport and they’re not biodegradable. What if we replaced these with fungal chippings? They’re equally good for protecting the china of your mother and can be tossed in the compost bin once you’re done.
They have huge potential as an eco-friendly material for the design of products and building materials. The reason for this is the possibility of growing mycelium, which is the non-fruiting portion of the fungus made up of a swathe of fine threads – in any size or shape you like, and then bake it in the inside of a pot using an oven. The result is a sturdy and light material with the structural strength, yet can be as soft or as rigid as you want. Furthermore is that the food source that feeds the fungus may impart specific qualities to the finished product, such as the ability to resist fire.
First company that began to investigate the use of fungi as a substance used in manufacturing was Ecovative in the US. They’ve created a wide range of items, from packaging for companies such as Dell computer systems to pleather like fabrics for fashion designers such as Stella McCartney. This is just the beginning. Fungi can also be transformed into soft foam substitutes including bricks, particleboard electrical circuit boards insulation that is fireproof, as well as household objects like chairs, vases lampshades, slippers, and even lampshades.
But why do we think this small? NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, the myco-architecture program is developing technology that can ‘grow’ the fungi-based habitats of the moons of different planets. In the field of the fungi that we have, technology is rapidly growing.
How can fungi clean our planet
The fungi do not have chlorophyll, like plants, so in order to obtain nutrients they disperse their long, thin hyphae throughout their food. They then let out digestive enzymes that dissolve the bonds that connect their food and allow them to take in tasty molecules, such as nitrogen, carbon, phosphorous and water. The ability to break the complex molecules down into simpler ones is what is key to my core mediation. It is the process of using microbes to purify the polluted areas.
They are used in a variety of methods, from the disassembly from polyaromatic hydrocarbons (think the petroleum waste products, such as sewage waste and Ash) to a variety of nitroaromatic chemicals such as dyes, explosives, insecticides and herbicides, to ashtrays made from fungi which are able to digest the cigarette smoke.
In essence, any carbon-based item is a source of food for the fungi. Fungi evolved alongside natural substances, and have learned what they can do to degrade them and they’re now developing the same for plastics. In the past couple of years, scientists have identified a fungus from the soil that is capable of breaking down polyurethane within a matter of weeks. Other species have been identified with similar abilities.
The application of these fungi in situ and cost-effectively is a challenge. However, there are some promising new methods. Researchers from Canada have found an organism that lives in the root of dandelions that are growing on the waste materials of the Canadian Athabasca oil sands. After the fungus was introduced into the other plant species, it infused with superpowers that allowed them to not only live in soil that is polluted, and also to clean it up in the process.
Other developments are based on downstream industries, such as for instance the Onion Collective located in Somerset. This bio recycling plant hopes to feed fungi using plastics, and create useful products such as leather substitute materials from the mycelium that results from this.
What fungi can do to help save the bees
Honeybee pollination is crucial for the majority of our crop varieties. However, bee populations are decreasing across the globe. In China farmers have been required to fertilize their apples with their hands. This decrease is due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that is defined by the sudden demise or disappearance of worker bees within the bee hive.
In across the US, Canada and Europe, CCD kills billions of bees every year. Why? A theory suggests that defense systems of bees have been impaired through being exposed to pesticides that contain neonicotinoid compounds. This means that they’re unable to fight the spread of viruses by parasitic hive mites. That’s where mushrooms be able to help.
In the late 1980s, mycologist and producer of mushroom supplements Paul Stamets noticed that his honeybees were drinking droplets of liquid released by the mycelium mushrooms that had colonised an area of wood chips.
For many years, he thought that insects were collecting sugar. Then it dawned on him that maybe the bees are collecting medicines. The idea came to fruition in the year 2018 when Stamets together with scientists of Washington State University, found that honeybees who were fed extracts from the tinder mushroom and reishi mushrooms had significant reduction in their viral load. significant decrease in the amount of viral infection especially the fatal deformed-wing virus.
Researchers aren’t sure that the extracts are aiding the bees’ immune system fight the virus, or actually killing the virus. However, future studies will determine. It is possible that we will soon put on medicinal dispensaries for bees as well as bird feeders.
Find out more about the fungi