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蘑菇拥有你未曾想过的神奇魔力

更新时间:2019/4/8 20:39:05 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The unexpected magic of mushrooms
蘑菇拥有你未曾想过的神奇魔力

Beneath Jim Anderson’s feet lies a monster. It has been alive since the Persian king Xerxes waged war against the Ancient Greeks and weighs more than three blue whales put together. It has a voracious appetite, eating its way through huge swathes of forest. But this is no long-forgotten beast borne of Greek mythology. It is a mushroom.

安德森(Jim Anderson)的脚下正躺着一个怪物。早在波斯王薛西斯(Xerxes)向古希腊宣战之时,它就一直存活着。重量超过三条蓝鲸。它的胃口非常大,能吞下大片森林。但它并不是希腊神话中被遗忘的野兽,它是一朵蘑菇。

Anderson is standing in an unassuming patch of woodland in Crystal Falls, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He is revisiting an organism living under the forest floor that he and his colleagues discovered nearly 30 years ago. This is the home of Armillaria gallica, a type of honey mushroom.

安德森正在密歇根北部半岛的克里斯特福尔斯(Crystal Falls),探索当地一片平淡无奇的林地。此行的目的是探访林地生存着的微生物有机体,距离安德森团队首次发现它已经30多年了。它的学名叫做高卢蜜环菌(Armillaria gallica)。

These common fungi are found in temperate woodlands all across Asia, North America and Europe, where they grow on dead or dying wood, helping to speed up the decay. Often the only visible sign of them above ground are clumps of scaly, yellow-brown toad-stool-like fruiting bodies that grow up to 10cm tall.

在亚洲、北美和欧洲的温带林地里,都能找到高卢蜜环菌的踪迹。它们生长在枯木和将死的树木上,加速腐蚀分解的过程。这种蘑菇只有子实体暴露在地表,最高能长到10厘米。子实体呈鳞片状的黄褐色,外表与毒蕈类似。

When Anderson and his colleagues visited Crystal Falls in the late 1980s, they discovered that what at first appeared to be a rich community of Armillaria gallica flourishing beneath the mulch of leaf litter and top soil of the forest floor was – in fact – one giant individual specimen. They estimated it covered an area about 91 acres, weighed 100 tonnes and was at least 1,500 years old. It set a new record at the time for the largest organism on the planet – a similar fungus in a forest in Oregon now holds the record.

20世纪80年代末,安德森团队来到了克里斯特福尔斯,在森林地面的覆盖层和表层土壤下,发现了大量高卢蜜环菌群。最初以为是一个丰富的蘑菇群落,后来发现,菌群是一个巨大的真菌体。团队估计,这个真菌体占地至少91英亩,质量约达100吨,至少生长了1500年时间。它的发现,刷新了俄勒冈州高卢蜜环菌保持的最大真菌的世界纪录。

“It caused quite a stir at the time,” says Anderson. “Our paper came out on April Fool’s Day so everyone thought it was a joke. Then in 2015 we thought we should go back and test our prediction that this was truly a persistent, single organism.”

安德森表示:“当时引起了不小的轰动。报道正是在愚人节发布的,所以很多人觉得我们在开玩笑。2015年的时候,我们决定再回去看看,验证当时所见的就是高卢蜜环菌单个个体的推测。”

They ended up returning to the site several times between 2015 and 2017, taking samples from distant points around the forest and then running the DNA they obtained through a sequencer back at their laboratory at the University of Toronto. Since their initial study in the 1980s, genetic analysis has advanced in bounds, with new techniques making the process far cheaper, faster and providing more information.

2015年至2017年间,安德森的团队多次回到此地,从林地的各个角落采集样本,并利用多伦多大学的实验室,通过测序仪对采集的DNA样本进行分析。自上世纪80年代以来,基因分析技术已经有了长足进步,新技术使这一分析过程变得更加容易、处理速度更快,而且能提供更多的信息。

Their new samples revealed that not only was the Armillaria gallica they had discovereda single individual, but it was far larger and older than they had predicted. The new results revealed it was four times larger, 1,000 years older and if gathered together would weigh around 400 tonnes.

分析了最新样本之后,确认这朵高卢蜜环菌就是单个个体,而且比之前预测的体积还要大,生长时间还要长。最新的分析结果是,这朵蘑菇比预测的要大4倍,生长年限要再往前推1000年。如果能秤重,整个蘑菇大概能达400吨左右。

But the analysis produced an even more surprising insight, one that could help us humans in our fight against one of modern medicines greatest foes – cancer.

然而,分析研究有一项重大的发现,其中含有的物质,能帮助人类用来抗衡现代医学界最大的敌人之一——癌症。

The Canadian researchers discovered what may be the secret behind the Armillaria gallica’sextraordinary size and age. It appears the fungus has an extremely low mutation rate – meaning it avoids potentially damaging alterations to its genetic code.

高卢蜜环菌因何能存活这么长时间和长得这么巨大?加拿大的研究人员发现了其中的秘密:这种菌菇的变异率极低,这就意味着菌菇的基因编码极少会发生改变。

As organisms grow, their cells divide into two to produce new daughter cells. Over time, the DNA in the cells can become damaged leading to errors, known as mutations, creeping into the genetic code. This is thought to be one of the key mechanisms that causes aging.

个体生长时,体内的细胞会一分为二,诞生出新的细胞。随着时间的推移,细胞内的DNA可能会损伤,导致蛋白质合成时产生错误,这个过程叫做变异,变异会改变基因编码。一般认为衰老就是这种机制产生的。

But it seems the Armillaria gallica in Crystal Falls might have some inbuilt resistance to this DNA damage. In 15 samples taken from distant parts of the forest and sequenced by the team, just 163 letters of the 100 million in the genetic code of Armillaria gallica had changed.

在克里斯特福尔斯发现的高卢蜜环菌中,有一种内在的抵抗DNA损伤的能力。团队在森林的不同地方采集了15个样本进行了测序,结果发现,在1亿个高卢蜜环菌的基因编码之中,发生改变的只有163个基因编码。

“The mutation frequency is much, much lower than we could ever have imagined,” says Anderson. “To have this low level of mutation, we would expect the cells to be dividing on average once for every metre of growth. But what is astonishing is that the cells are microscopic – just a few micrometres in size – so you would need millions of them in every metre of growth.”

安德森说:“变异率远远低于我们的想象。除非每分裂一次,这朵蜜环菌就长大一米,否则这样低水平的变异率是不可能达到的。但是,细胞是十分微小的东西——每个细胞大概只有几微米。因此,要长大一米,大概需要分裂出数百万个细胞才行。”

Anderson and his team believe the fungus has a mechanism that helps to protect its DNA from damage, giving it one of the most stable genomes in the natural world. While they have still to unravel exactly what this is, the remarkable stability of the genome of Armillaria gallica could offer new insights into human health.

安德森团队认为,这种真菌体内有一种机制,能够抵制DNA损伤,只有这样才能让它的基因组如此稳定。虽然无法给出确切解释,但高卢蜜环菌惊人的稳性,给了人们启发,为人类健康提供了新的视角。

In some cancers, mutations can run riot in cells as the normal mechanisms that check for and repair DNA break down.

在某些癌症中,当检查和修复DNA的正常人体机制被破坏时,细胞内的突变可能会失控。

“Armillaria gallica may provide a potential counterpoint to the notorious instability of cancer,” says Anderson. “If you looked at a line of cancer cells that were equivalent in age, it would be so riddled with mutations that you probably wouldn’t be able to recognise it. Armillaria is at the opposite extreme. It might be possible to pick out the evolutionary changes that have allowed it be like this and compare them to cancer cells.”

安德森说:“高卢蜜环菌的某些成分,似乎能与癌症的不稳定性抗衡。观察一组培养了相同时间的癌细胞和蜜环菌细胞,癌细胞由于几经变异,已经无法辨识。而高卢蜜环菌则恰恰相反,我们可以观察到它是如何变化成现在这样,并与癌细胞进行比较。”

Doing this could not only allow scientists to learn more about what goes wrong in cancer cells but may also provide potential new ways of treating cancer.

这样的研究,不仅能让科学家更了解癌细胞变异的机理,还可能提供治愈癌症的新思路。

While Anderson and his colleagues are not planning on doing this work themselves – they are leaving it to others who are younger and more qualified to understand the genetic complexities of cancer – their findings provide an intriguing glimpse of the untapped power of fungi to help humanity.

安德森团队的研究,发现了真菌能帮助人类这块尚未触及的领域,但他们并不准备展开研究,他们希望有更年轻、更专业的团队来做这项工作。这样的团队才更了解癌症遗传的复杂性。

Fungi are some of the most common organisms on our planet – the combined biomass of these often tiny organisms exceeds that of all the animals on the planet put together. And we are discovering new fungi all the time. More than 90% of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world are currently unknown to science. In 2017 alone, there were 2,189 new species of fungi described by scientists.

真菌是地球上最常见的生物之一,这些微小生物的总生物量超过地球上所有动物的总和。人们还在不断发现新的真菌。据估计,生物界约有380万种真菌,其中有超过90%都尚未被发现。仅2017年,科学家就新发现了2189种真菌。

A recent report published by the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London highlighted that fungi are already used in hundreds of different ways, from making paper to helping to clean our dirty clothes. Around 15% of all vaccines and biologically produced drugs come from fungi. The complex proteins used to trigger an immune response to the hepatitis B virus, for example, are grown in yeast cells, which are part of the fungi family.

伦敦英国皇家植物园(Royal Botanic Gardens Kew)最新发表的一份报告中强调,真菌目前已经有数百种用途。从造纸到清洗脏衣服。就疫苗和生物制剂来说,原材料中有大约15%来自真菌。乙肝疫苗制剂是一种复合蛋白,是在酵母细胞中培养而成的。而酵母则是真菌的一种。

Perhaps the most well-known is the antibiotic penicillin, which was discovered in a common type of household mould that often grows on old bread. Dozens of other types of antibiotics are now produced by fungi.

知名抗生素盘尼西林,其实是在常见的家庭霉菌中发现的,是生长在面包上的一种霉菌。还有很多抗生素,也是用真菌制成的。

They are also sources of treatments for migraines and statins for treating heart disease. One relatively new immunosuppressant, used for treating multiple sclerosis, was developed from a compound produced by a fungus that infects cicada larvae.

治疗偏头痛和治疗心脏疾病的他汀类药物也是从真菌中提取出来的。用于治疗多发性硬化症的新型免疫抑制剂,其主要化学成分提取自某种感染蝉若虫的真菌。

“It is part of this family of fungi that get into insects and take them over,” says Tom Prescott, a researcher who evaluates the use of plants and fungi at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. “They produce these compounds to suppress the insect immune system and it turns out they can be used in humans too.”

普雷斯科特(Tom Prescott)是英国皇家植物园的一名研究员,主要研究植物和真菌的各种应用。他说:“真菌会侵入昆虫体内,取而代之。真菌能分泌一种化合物,抑制昆虫免疫系统发挥作用。我们发现,这种化合物对人类也同样有效。”

But some researchers believe we have barely scratched the surface of what fungi can offer us.

研究人员认为菌类给人带来的帮助,如今发现的只是冰山一角。

“There have already been [fungi] reported to have activity against viral diseases,” says Riikka Linnakoski, a forest pathologist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland. Compounds produced by fungi can destroy viruses that cause diseases like flu, polio, mumps, measles and glandular fever. Numerous fungi have also been found to produce compounds that could treat diseases that currently have no cure, such as HIV and the Zika virus.

林纳科斯基(Riikka Linnakoski)是芬兰自然资源研究所的一名森林病理学家,他说:“已经发现真菌能够抵御病毒性疾病。"真菌合成的某些化合物,能消除多种病毒,”例如流感病毒、脊髓灰质炎病毒、腮腺炎病毒、麻疹病毒和腺热病毒等。人们还发现,真菌合成的化合物中,有些成分能够治疗目前无法治愈的疾病,如艾滋病毒和寨卡病毒。

“I believe these represent just a small fraction of the full arsenal of bioactive compounds,” says Linnakoski. “Fungi are a vast source of various bioactive molecules, which could potentially be used as antivirals in the future.”

林纳科斯基说:“我相信,生物活性化合物还有很大的开发空间。真菌富含的大量生物活性分子,在未来可能会被制成各种抗病毒药物。”

She is part of a research team that is investigating whether fungi growing in the mangrove forests of Colombia could be sources of new antiviral agents. These goals have not yet been realised, however. While fungi have been well researched as a source of antibiotics that act against bacteria, no antiviral drugs derived from fungi have been approved.

他参与的一个研究小组,主要研究哥伦比亚红树林中的某种真菌能否制成新型抗病毒药物。目前尚未有突破性进展。许多研究证明了真菌能够抵御细菌攻击,是很好的抗生素来源,但是用真菌制作抗病毒药物的提议还未被通过。

Linnakoski puts this apparent omission by the scientific community down to the difficulty in collecting and growing many fungi from the natural environment and the historic lack of communication between mycologists and the virology community. But she believes it will only be a matter of time before a fungi-based antiviral drug makes its way into clinics.

林纳科斯基认为,科学界的明显疏忽有两个原因。一是从自然界采集和培养数量巨大的真菌并不容易;二是真菌学家和病毒学家长久以来缺乏沟通。但他相信,利用真菌制作抗病毒药物,并进入临床使用,只是时间问题。

Linnakoski also believes that searching for new species of fungi in inhospitable environments such as in the sediment on the sea bed in some of the deepest parts of the ocean, or in the highly changeable conditions of mangrove forests, might yield even more exciting compounds.

林纳科斯基还认为,在极端的环境中寻找真菌物种,比如深海海床沉积处、生存条件多变的红树林,其所含有的化学成分可能更令人兴奋。

“The extreme conditions are thought to provoke fungi to produce unique and structurally unprecedented secondary metabolites,” she says. “Unfortunately, many of the native ecosystems that harbor great potential for discoveries of novel bioactive compounds, such as mangrove forests, are disappearing at alarming rates.”

他说:“人们认为,在极端条件下会刺激真菌产生独特的、结构上前所未有的次生代谢物,次生代谢物十分罕见,在结构上是前所未有的。但不幸的是,能够产生这种新型生物活性化合物的许多生态环境如红树林,都在以惊人的速度消亡。”

But fungi have uses that can tackle other problems beyond our health.

真菌除了能应用于医疗,还能帮助人们解决其他问题。

A fungus found growing in soil at a landfill site on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, may be a solution to the alarming levels of plastic pollution clogging up our oceans. Fariha Hasan, a microbiologist at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, discovered the fungi Aspergillus tubingensis can rapidly break down polyurethane plastic.

在巴基斯坦伊斯兰堡郊区垃圾填埋场,发现了一种生活在土壤中的真菌,能够解决海洋塑料污染问题。伊斯兰堡真纳大学(Quaid-I-Azam University)的微生物学家哈桑(Fariha Hasan)发现,这种塔宾曲霉菌能够迅速分解聚氨酯塑料。

These plastics, which used to make a wide range of products including furniture foams, electronics cases, adhesives and films, can hang around in soil and sea water for years. The fungi, however, was found to break it down within a matter of weeks. Hasan and her team are now investigating how to use the fungi for large-scale degradation of plastic waste. Other fungi, such as Pestalotiopsis microspore, which normally grows on rotting ivy leaves, have also been found to have a prodigious appetite for plastic, raising hopes they could be harnessed to tackle our growing waste problem.

现在许多产品都是用聚氨酯塑料制成的,包括家具泡沫、电子产品外壳、粘合剂和薄膜等。如果弃置于土壤或海洋,很多年都无法分解。但塔宾曲霉菌能在几周内将其分解干净。哈桑的团队目前正研究如何利用真菌降解塑料垃圾。生长在腐烂的常青藤叶上拟盘多毛孢属的孢子菌,这种真菌能够大量分解塑料。人们希望利用它们,解决日益严重的的废物处理问题。

In fact, mushrooms have quite a taste for the pollution we contaminate our world with. Species have been discovered that can clean up oil pollution from soil, degrade harmful heavy metals, consume persistent pesticides and even help to rehabilitate radioactive sites.

事实上,人类所产生的污染物菌菇有很强的吞噬力。已经发现一些菌菇,它们能清除土壤中的油污、降解有害重金属、消耗农药残留,有的甚至还能吸收辐射。

Mushrooms, however, could also help to avoid the need to use some plastics in the first place.

然而菌菇还能够帮助减少塑料制品的使用。

A number of groups around the world are now attempting to exploit a key feature of fungi – the vein-like webs of mycelium they produce – to create materials that can replace plastic packaging. As fungi grow, these mycelium threads branch outwards, to probe into nooks and crannies in the soil, binding it together. They are nature’s glue.

世界各地的许多研究团体,正试图利用真菌产生的类似血管状菌丝体的这一重要特征,来制造可以替代塑料包装的材料。真菌在生长时,这些菌丝体会向外伸展,深入土壤的角落和缝隙,并与土壤结合在一起。这就是天然的粘合剂。

In 2010, Ecovative Design began exploring how they could use this to bind together natural waste products like rice husks or wood chips to produce an alternative to polystyrene packaging. Their early work has evolved into MycoComposite, which uses left over bits of hemp plant as the base material.

2010年,Ecovative设计公司开始研究,如果利用这种特性,并结合天然的废弃物,如稻壳、木屑等,来生产一种代替聚苯乙烯的包装材料。在他们的早期工作中研制出了真菌复合材料,利用麻类植物作为基础材料生产产品包装。

These are packed into reusable moulds along with fungal spores and flour, which are then left to grow for nine days. As they do so, they produce enzymes that start to digest the waste. Once the material has grown into the desired shape, it is then treated with heat to dry out the material and halt further growth. The resulting mushroom packaging is biodegradable and is already being used by companies such as Dell to package its computers.

人们把真菌孢子、面粉和可重复使用的模具放在一起,让它们生长9天。这个过程中会产生一种酶开始消化废物。一旦材料形成所需的形状,将其加热处理使材料干燥,防止其继续生长。由此得到的菌菇包装是可生物降解的,这种材料已经被戴尔等公司用于包装计算机。

The company has also developed a way of growing mycelium into foams that can be used in trainers or as insulation, and fabrics that mimic leather. Working with sustainable fabrics firm Bolt Threats, it combines waste corn stalks with the mycelium, allowing it to grow into a mat that is tanned and compressed. The whole process takes days rather than the years needed for animal leather.

该公司还研发出一种泡沫,也是利用菌丝体长成的。可以用这种泡沫做运动鞋、绝缘材料,还能用于仿皮革面料。Bolt Threats是一家坚持可持续发展理念的纺织公司,Ecovative设计公司与之合作,将废玉米秸秆与菌丝体的结合物塑形后,进行鞣制、压缩的工序,最终制造出垫子。整个过程需要数天时间,而不是动物皮革需要数年。

Stella McCartney is among the designers now looking to use this mushroom leather and shoe designer Liz Ciokajlo recently used mycelium to create a modern reimaging of the 1970s Moon Boot fashion trend.

设计师麦卡特尼(Stella McCartney)正在寻找利用菌菇皮革和鞋履设计师西奥卡罗(Liz Ciokajlo)使用菌丝体,来制造一个20世纪70年代月亮靴潮流的现代新形象。

Athanassia Athanassiou, a materials scientist at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, has been using fungi to develop new types of bandage for treating chronic wounds.

阿塔纳苏(Athanassia Athanassiou)就职于意大利热那亚理工学院,是一名材料科学家。他一直在利用真菌,开发治疗慢性创面的新型绷带。

But she has also discovered it is possible to tune the qualities of the mycelium material by altering what it has to digest. The harder a substance is for the fungi to digest – such as wood chips rather than potato peelings – the stiffer the resulting mycelium material is, for example.

他发现,通过改变菌丝体所消化物质,可以改变菌丝体的性质。真菌消化的物质越硬,如比木屑而不是马铃薯皮,所得到的菌丝体材料就会越坚实。

It raises the prospect of using fungi for more robust purposes.

这就将真菌的应用推广到了更广阔的平台。

California-based MycoWorks have been developing ways of turning mushrooms into building materials. By fusing wood together with mycelium, they have been able to create bricks that are fire-retardant and tougher than conventional concrete.

总部位于美国加州MycoWorks的公司,一直在开发以菌菇为原料生产建筑材料。他们用木材作为菌菇的消耗基,制造出了比传统的混凝土更加阻燃、更加坚硬的砖块。

Tien Huynh, a biotechnologist at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, has been leading a project to create similar fungal brick by combining mycelium from Trametes versicolor with rice hulls and crushed waste glass.

澳大利亚墨尔本理工学院的生物技术专家黄恬(Tien Huynh)一直在进行一项研究,他的团队将菌丝体与稻壳和碎玻璃混合在一起,制造出了类似的真菌砖块。

She says they not only provide a cheap and environmentally friendly building material, but they also help to solve another problem facing many homes in Australia and around the world – termites. The silica content of the rice and the glass makes the material less appetising to termites, which cause billions of dollars in damage to homes every year.

他说,这种建筑材料不仅造价低廉,而且更加环保。同时也解决了澳大利亚和世界各地许多家庭遇到的白蚁问题。每年白蚁给房屋造成的损失超过十亿美元,而稻壳和玻璃中含有的二氧化硅不能为白蚁所食用。

“In our research, we have also used the fungi to produce enzymes and new biostructures for different properties including sound absorption, strength and flexibility,” says Huynh. Her team is also working on using fungi to produce chitin – a substance used to thicken foods and in many cosmetics.

黄恬说:“我们也利用真菌生产各种酶,并且打造不同属性的新生物结构,包括隔音性、强度和韧性等。”他的团队还在研究利用真菌生产甲壳素,这种物质广泛应用于食品增稠和化妆品行业。

“Usually chitin is processed from shellfish, which has hypoallergenic properties,” she says. “The fungal chitin does not. We will have more fungal-based products later in the year but it is certainly a fascinating resource underutilised.”

他说:“甲壳素通常是由贝壳类生物加工而成的,存在过敏可能。而真菌生产的甲壳素是不会引起过敏的。今年我们预计还会推出更多基于真菌生产的产品。真菌资源真的很迷人,而且几乎没有被开发过。”

Fungi can also be used in combination with traditional building materials to create a “smart concrete” that can heal itself as the fungi grows into any cracks that form, secreting fresh calcium carbonate – the key raw material in concrete – to repair the damage.

真菌还可以与传统建筑材料结合使用,生产出一种能够自我修复的“智能混凝土”。如果有裂缝出现,真菌的生物活动会分泌出碳酸钙(混凝土的主要成分),将裂缝填满、修补建筑损伤。

“The possibilities for what we might use mycelium for are endless,” says Gitartha Kalita, a bioengineer at Assam Engineering College and Assam Don Bosco University in Guwahati, India. He and his colleagues have been using fungi and hay waste to create an alternative to wood for building. “Everything that we now call agricultural waste is actually an incredible resource that mushrooms can grow on. We have already degraded our environment and so if we can replace the current materials with something that is going to hold up in some sustainable way. They can take our waste and turn it into something which is really valuable for us.”

卡利塔(Gitartha Kalita)是印度古瓦哈提阿萨姆唐博斯科大学的生物工程师。他和同事们利用真菌和干草废物,研制出了建筑木材的替代品。他说:“使用菌丝的可能性是无限的。在人们眼中的农业废弃物,实际是真菌生长的资源。我们的生存环境已经退化了,所以我们要用可持续的方式来替代现有的材料。真菌可以把废物变成对我们真正有价值的东西。"

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