Fungi and New Drugs

Fungi and New Drugs

A team of scientists in the Netherlands has created a giant library of compounds derived from the excretions of over 10,000 species of fungi. Each of the isolated compounds was screened for biological activity in zebrafish embryos, which were chosen due to their similarities to humans, but also because they develop nearly all of their organs quickly and simultaneously. This meant that any effects the compounds had could be observed in just a few days’ time on a wide range of cell types.

The purpose of these experiments was to identify possible sources for new pharmaceuticals. It may sound crazy, but this isn’t the first time that researchers have looked to fungi for the discovery of new drugs. Lovastatin, a compound known to lower cholesterol, is produced by a fungus called Aspergillus terreus. The scientists hope that future studies will identify additional fungal compounds with beneficial effects which could then be developed into human therapeutics.

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