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  • Mushrooms help understand ageing

    Both basic research programmes and industry can use the new findings which researchers at the University of Debrecen have published in Scientific Reports.
    Experts at the University of Debrecen have worked together with American and Korean researchers in research in which molecular genetic and microbial physiology experiments were carried out on the model organisms of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans.
    - The test produced surprising results, as this fungal species reacted in a different way to modifications of the mitochondria than did model organisms of mushrooms used previously - says István Pócsi, director of the University of Debrecen’s Biotechnology and Microbiology Department, and one of the participants in the research.
    Mitochondria are the power plants of cells, the failure of which leads to the cells’ ageing process and also triggers a programmed cell death, or apoptosis. For this reason, researchers are actively using several model organisms to investigate the processes taking place in the mitochondria. Since genetic conversion is relatively easy, fungal model organisms, such as the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the filamentous fungi Podospora anserina, are very popular. However, the Aspergillus nidulans filamentous fungus studies have pointed out the limitations of the models used so far, so the researchers in Debrecen now recommend this species for researchers using fungus models.
    The results of the research group have shown that with this filamentous fungus one of the genetic modifications significantly reduces the fungal protease and mycotoxin production, and so the strain generated in this way can be very useful in the development of the pharmaceutical industry’s new protein production system. Another modified group has turned out to be very tolerant of the heavy metal cadmium, and can therefore be used in the future in environmental biotechnology processes, such as sewage water purification and the decontamination of heavy metals.
    In addition to the Biotechnology and Microbiology Department of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology, the Department of Botany and the Institute of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine have also become involved in the research, with the latter developing the confocal microscopy technique to establish the number and size of mitochondria.
    The research team published its results in Scientific Reports, part of the renowned Nature group of journals.
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