Wednesday, May 28, 2008

6 ways mushrooms can save the world

Another TEDtalk caught my eye. Mycologist Paul Stamets studies the mycelium -- and lists 6 ways that this astonishing fungus can help save the world.

This is a fascinating talk. He demonstrates how he uses mushrooms to clean up oil spills and to rehabilitate waterways.

He's discovered that mushrooms are active against pox, flu viruses

Mycologist Paul Stamets tests over 100 mushroom extracts with NIH and USAMRIID. Several show selective potent anti-viral properties.

Recent in vitro tests demonstrate that a specially prepared extract from Fomitopsis officinalis is highly selective against viruses. F. officinalis is a wood conk mushroom, known for thousands of years as Agarikon. It is extinct or nearly so in Europe and Asia, and is still found in the old-growth forests of the American Pacific Northwest. It may provide novel anti-viral drugs useful for protecting against pox and other viruses.

Dr. John A. Secrist III, vice president of Southern Research Institute's Drug Discovery Division, who oversees an NIAID contract to evaluate potential antiviral drugs, notes that "Several of Stamets' medicinal mushroom extracts have shown very interesting activity against pox viruses in cell culture assays performed through NIAID, and we are hopeful that they will also prove effective in the animal model systems. The number of different classes of compounds that show promising activity is small, so finding something new would be of great benefit to the scientific community." In fact, of more than 200,000 samples submitted over several years, only a handful are slated for animal testing each year. In the past year, approximately ten samples showed activity warranting approval for animal testing; of these, two are from strains of Agarikon discovered by Stamets. Moreover, Mr. Stamets' samples are the only natural products extracts tested through this program that have demonstrated very active anti-pox activity.

He's even demonstrated how he can use mushrooms to kill carpenter ants, termites and fire ants. He makes a mixture of a particular mushroom. The ants eat the solution, die and are mummified. A mushroom sprouts from them. Then entire house ends up being inoculated against the pests.

The technology is being licensed through Mycopesticide LLC, a company Mr. Stamets created. It could have significant eco-nomic impact as an alternative to traditional chemical pes-ticides, while reducing harm to human health and the envi-ronment, he believes. For instance, only a teaspoonful of the fungus grown on a substrate such as rice and costing a few cents to produce is sufficient to treat a single home for years, Mr. Stamets says. In addition, M. anisopliae and the active compounds it generates don’t appear to be harmful to humans, other mammals, fish, useful insects such as honeybees, or plants

His website is fascinating. He even has a section for kids.

1 comment:

Dana said...

Aren't those TEDTalks absolutely amazing? I love listening to them, and some of them have such "boring" topics which suddenly become very interesting.