9/21/2023 - Technology and Innovation

Hongos magical

By Milagros Castroman

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Fungi are more “magic” than we think. These organisms have a very complex cellular structure and, as well as are experts in passing inadvertents, have capabilities and benefits that we cannot identify.

Most likely, when we imagine a fungus, the first that comes to our mind is the typical champagne. However, its morphology varies in numerous colors, shapes and sizes and has the ability to adapt to an infinite diversity of environments.

Although we do not realize, the fungi are present in our cotidianity. To imagine it, let's model the kitchen. We can find, for example, mold-shaped fungi (not so desired) in orange that no one deigned to eat and was abandoned for a month in the alacena. If we open the refrigerator, we will find a variety of foods whose production has implied the use of fungi, such as blue cheese or beer. These last examples are two of the thousands in which fungi and biotechnology merge. This combination is not only present in food, but also in multiple areas such as the agricultural industry or medicine.

Fungi are magical, and I'm not referring to those who make us hallucinate per se, Those that make our life effectively easier. For this reason, today we will talk about the areas in which this micro-organism fulfills a fundamental role.

Food

First of all, we will explore a land where we are all (in greater or lesser measure) familiar: food.

One of the most named fungi in the food industry is yeast, as it is able to perform fermentation, which gives it a great industrial value. Fermentation is a natural process in which microorganisms obtain energy from the degradation of molecules that are transformed into simpler chemical compounds.

The application of this advantage becomes evident in the cervec industryIt was. By alcoholic fermentation, yeasts use polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates) present in cereal seeds and degrade them to simpler molecules. The product resulting from this process is carbon dioxide and alcohol, characteristic ingredient of beer.

The fermenting capacity of yeasts is also manifested in the process of bread production. Yeast uses the carbohydrates of the flour and performs the fermentation. The carbon dioxide obtained is responsible for giving it a rough and spongy consistency to the product.

Agriculture

There is a kind of fungus that has the quality of exponentially improving the development and growth of crops. Mycorrrizas are symbiotic associations in which fungi (myrrícicos) come into contact with the roots of plants.

A symbiotic relationship implies that two organisms of different species live. Although there are parasitic relationships, where it is harmful to one and beneficial to the other, the mycorrhical unions are better of the mutualist type, or be favorable to both. So, where do you benefit each?

Fungi are heterotrophs, i.e. obtain their organic matter food available or from other organisms. During the symbiosis, they feed on the carbohydrates that produce the plant organism. On the other hand, by joining with the roots, the fungus grants the plant a larger surface of soil exploration and, consequently, a greater absorption since it transfers the nutrients obtained, such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

In addition, the mycorrhicus fungus functions as a kind of “physical barrera” that protects the host from the attack of parasites and pathogenic fungi. When occupying the place available in the rizosfera of the plant, other harmful organisms cannot contact the roots.

Bioremediation

Today, soil pollution caused by the release of waste from large industries is a global problem. Although one of the main objectives of biotechnology is to create productive processes that result less harmful to the environment, methods have also been found to treat waste.

Bioremediation is the use of living organisms or products of your metabolism for the recovery of contaminated environments. In phytoremediation, plants are the main agents of the process. They have the ability to absorb heavy metals, organic solvents and other pollutants, helping to clean the environment naturally.

They'll probably be wondering... what role do fungi play in this process? The truth is that arbuscular endochemical fungi (HMA) are a source of great interest in phytoremedication. As we have seen before, this type of microorganism increases the absorption of nutrients from the soil. The same happens with heavy metals.

The HMA not only enhance the extraction of toxic components from the soil, but can also modify the chemical state of certain contaminants to reduce their toxicity.

There is another type of bioremediation that involves fungi directly: My correction. In the case of cigarette pads, these contain substances that represent a large toxicological risk when discarded in common waste. The gyrgola is an edible fungus that, in addition toandor incredible taste and high protein value, has the ability to degrade the chemical compounds present in the cigarette filters. This is a very efficient way to reduce pollution.

MedicineOver the years, fungi have shown to be very important for human medicine and health. One of the most prominent is lion melena due to its remarkable medicinal properties.

A recent study has shown that lion melena contains two organic compounds capable of improving memory in rats: erinacins and herycenones. These molecules are capable of increasing the production of the nerve growth factor, essential protein for the survival, development and growth of nerve cells.

This discovery could mean a potential therapeutic use for treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer.

The hidden potential of the microscopic world

Currently, about 70 000 species of different fungi, however, it is said that there could be more than one and a half million. This is an exemplification of the immense that is the microscopic world, however paradoxical it sounds.

Without limiting us to the fungi kingdom, the microbiome has a great yet unexplored potential that promises to offer us great tools. Scientists and biotechnologists play a key role in the discovery and research of these inexhaustible microorganisms.

We live in an environment of continuous change. Biotechnology and its discoveries offer an improvement to the quality of life, not only of people, but of all living organisms that dwell on earth. The study of the microscopic world reminds us that, in the most recollect of nature, however insignificant it seems, often lies the greatest potential of change.

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milagros castroman

Milagros Castroman

I'm a second-year biotechnology student at UADE. I have a deep interest in the application of science in addressing environmental issues in order to promote a greener future.

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