The Fungus Among Us

                                                                   by Mike Retzlaff

Fungi are everywhere and one of the most common organisms on Planet Earth.  There seem to be about 3.8 million species but science is familiar with only about 10% of that number.  Discoveries are being made almost daily and many of the new found traits are astounding.

Mushrooms found at Chernobyl, the nuclear disaster site, are breaking down radioactive waste through a process called radio-synthesis.

Toadstools have been found at an oil spill site in Ecuador which assimilate and digest toxins from petroleum-soaked soil.

A fungus found at a landfill in Pakistan appears to break down polyurethane plastics in weeks compared to the years normally required for natural degradation.

Scientists are now engineering the yeast genome to produce a fermentation constituent which will augment a finished beer’s flavor to taste “hoppier.”  That constituent is monoterpene. The report is that brewer’s yeast can be engineered to biosynthesize aromatic monoterpene molecules that impart hoppy flavor to beer by incorporating recombinant DNA derived from yeast, mint, and basil. The researchers don’t expect to replace hops in their capacity to preserve the beer, but their work might make hop flavor and aroma more consistent.

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