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March 20th, 2023

Fungi could Be The Best For Us.


A popular series "The Last Of Us" which is based on a video game with the same title is gracing small screens around the world. The concept of fungi has taken over a world and the survivors of this dystopian society journey in its struggle. But is this storyline as far fetched, or is there a human connection to fungi we are unaware about. This is the subject of this article. What is the connection and could this be the BEST FOR US?

“I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident.”
- Alexander Fleming

Mushroom v.s. Plants how close is our DNA?

When we think about our biological relationships with different organisms, we often tend to consider ourselves more closely related to animals and plants. However, recent studies have shown that humans share a greater genetic similarity with fungi, particularly with mushrooms, than we do with plants.

From a DNA standpoint, mushrooms are more closely related to humans than plants are. Humans and fungi share a common eukaryotic ancestor, meaning that their cells have a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. In contrast, plants are classified as prokaryotes, meaning that their cells lack these structures. This difference in cellular organization is one of the reasons that humans share a closer genetic connection with fungi than with plants.

In terms of specific DNA sequences, humans share approximately 50% of our DNA with fungi, whereas we only share about 15% of our DNA with plants. This genetic similarity is especially striking when we consider the different functions and structures of humans and fungi. While humans are multicellular organisms that are capable of complex thought and behavior, fungi are single-celled or multicellular organisms that are often involved in breaking down organic matter and recycling nutrients in ecosystems.

One of the key factors that contribute to the genetic similarity between humans and fungi is the presence of chitin in their cell walls. Chitin is a complex carbohydrate that provides structural support to cells. While plants also have cell walls, they are composed primarily of cellulose, a different type of carbohydrate.

Another reason for the close genetic relationship between humans and fungi is the presence of certain enzymes and metabolic pathways. Both humans and fungi have similar mechanisms for breaking down sugars and producing energy through glycolysis. Additionally, fungi and humans both produce a family of proteins called the Ras family, which play an important role in cell signaling and growth.

Interestingly, this genetic connection between humans and mushrooms extends beyond just our DNA. Mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine for their various health benefits, and recent research has shown that certain types of mushrooms have immune-boosting properties and may even have anti-cancer effects. These health benefits may be due in part to the genetic similarities between humans and fungi.

In addition, mushrooms play an important role in the environment as decomposers, breaking down dead organic matter and recycling nutrients back into ecosystems. Without mushrooms, many ecosystems would be unable to function properly.

Overall, while it may seem surprising at first, the evidence suggests that humans are more genetically similar to fungi, particularly mushrooms, than we are to plants. This shared ancestry has important implications for both our understanding of biology and our relationship with the natural world.

Examples of their benefits to humankind?

Mushrooms have been used for their medicinal properties for centuries and are still being studied for their potential health benefits today. Here are a few examples of mushroom-based supplements and medicines that have shown promise in scientific research:

  1. Reishi Mushroom: Reishi is a type of mushroom that has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to boost immunity, reduce stress, and improve overall health. Modern research has found that reishi may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting properties. Reishi supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and teas.

  2. Lion's Mane Mushroom: Lion's mane is a type of mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve cognitive function and memory. Recent research has suggested that lion's mane may have neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects. Lion's mane supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts.

  3. Chaga Mushroom: Chaga is a type of mushroom that has been traditionally used in Siberian folk medicine to treat various ailments. Modern research has found that chaga may have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Chaga supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and teas.

  4. Shiitake Mushroom: Shiitake is a type of mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to boost immunity and improve overall health. Modern research has found that shiitake may have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering effects. Shiitake supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts.

  5. Psilocybin Mushroom: Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychoactive compound found in certain types of mushrooms, including magic mushrooms. While psilocybin is illegal in many countries, it has been studied for its potential therapeutic effects, particularly for treating depression, anxiety, and addiction.

It is important to note that while mushrooms may have potential health benefits, more research is needed to fully understand their effects and how they should be used. Additionally, some mushroom-based supplements and medicines may interact with other medications or have side effects, so it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before using them.

Medical Research

Here are a few references to studies that support the idea that humans are genetically closer to fungi, and in particular, mushrooms:

"The Fungal Genealogy of Animals" by Laura A. Katz et al. in PLOS Genetics, 2012. This study examines the evolution of eukaryotic organisms and suggests that humans and fungi share a common ancestor.

"The Immune-Modulating Properties of the Edible Mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill" by R. Hetland et al. in Journal of Medicinal Food, 2008. This study explores the potential health benefits of consuming certain types of mushrooms.

"Anti-cancer effects of Ganoderma lucidum: a review of scientific evidence" by W. Weng and Y. Q. Qiu in Nutrition and Cancer, 2010. This review article summarizes the research on the anti-cancer effects of the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum.

"Comparative genome analysis of the thermophilic biomass-degrading fungi Myceliophthora thermophila and Thielavia terrestris" by S. Berka et al. in Nature Biotechnology, 2011. This study examines the genetic makeup of fungi that are capable of breaking down plant biomass, which has implications for biofuel production.

"Chitin and chitosan: Production and application of versatile biopolymers in life sciences" by M. Rinaudo in International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 2006. This article discusses the unique properties of chitin, a complex carbohydrate found in the cell walls of fungi and certain animals, including humans.

"Mushrooms as a source of dietary fiber: A review" by M. J. Gunde-Cimerman et al. in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2018. This review article examines the potential health benefits of consuming mushrooms, including their high fiber content.

"The Human Microbiome and the Emerging Field of Microbiomics" by R. J. Xavier and E. G. Seed in Nature Reviews Microbiology, 2019. This review article discusses the importance of the microbiome, which includes fungi as well as bacteria, in human health and disease.

Overall, the idea that humans are genetically closer to fungi than plants is supported by a growing body of research. While this may seem surprising at first, it highlights the incredible diversity of life on Earth and the interconnectedness of all living things. By studying the genetics and biology of fungi, we can gain new insights into our own biology and potentially discover new treatments for a range of health conditions.

Written by R. Shockey

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