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Unveiling the Fungal Giant: China’s Mycological Marvel & Its Global Impact

Do you know what the largest creature in the world is? The answer may surprise you: fungi.

In 1998, traces of a fungus were discovered in the Malheur National Forest Park in Oregon, USA, and were approximately 2,400 to 8,650 years old. The tentacle-like white mycelium eventually covered an area of ​​9.65 square kilometers.

In natural ecosystems, fungi are the second largest group of organisms after insects and can coexist with almost 97% of plants. According to conservative estimates by scientists, there are about 1.5 million species of fungi in the world, but only more than 100,000 species have been reported and recorded, and more fungi have yet to be discovered.

What kind of secrets do these diverse fungi with different shapes hide?

In our country, investigation and research on fungi began in the 1950s. In January 1953, the Fungal Plant Disease Research Laboratory was established with Academician Dai Fanlan as the director. On this basis, the Institute of Applied Mycology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was established in December 1956. With the continuous deepening of mycological research, in October 2011, the Ministry of Science and Technology officially approved the construction of the National Key Laboratory of Mycology. Since its establishment, the laboratory has been committed to revealing the origin of fungal life and the nature of system evolution, ecological functions and metabolic diversity based on my country’s rich fungal resources.

Field collection is a specialty of the State Key Laboratory of Mycology. In order to collect more precious fungal specimens, scientific researchers have been working in the field for many years, reaching as far as Mohe in the north, the Paracel Islands in the south, the “First Outpost in the East” in Wusu Town in the east, and Khunjerab in Xinjiang in the west, leaving their footprints all over the motherland. . Especially the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with its high altitude, high drop, and low latitude, these special geographical factors have given birth to rich and diverse ecological types, providing an ideal habitat for fungal growth and deeply attracting scientific researchers.

In 1966, Wei Jiangchun, a lichen mycologist, carried dry food on his back to Mount Everest, climbed to an altitude of 5,700 meters and set up camp. He persisted in the harsh environment for half a month and finally collected a lichen species that had never been discovered before. Peak stone ear”. Today, this precious specimen is housed in Asia’s largest lichen herbarium.

In recent years, the State Key Laboratory of Mycology has made remarkable research achievements in ecosystem health, industrial and agricultural production, medicine and health. For soybean cyst nematodes, we have carried out research on predatory fungi, developed related fungi, and created an efficient biological prevention and control system; Ganoderma cultivation technology has been extended to most provinces and regions across the country, and we have pioneered the system and method of artificially cultivating Cordyceps sinensis, a technological breakthrough. Barriers have formed a large-scale intelligent ecological system to support the production capacity of hundreds of tons of Cordyceps sinensis; the research capabilities on the ecology, domestication and evolution of widely used yeast have been greatly improved. For example, in 2018, the Dutch Heineken beer company produced a batch of The beer named “Wild Lager” uses the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the “ancestor” of beer yeast discovered and isolated from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau by researchers at the laboratory, and is therefore known as the most original beer.

Fungal infection is an important threat to clinical medicine worldwide. The State Key Laboratory of Mycology reported my country’s first “super fungus” infection case and studied the morphology and virulence factors of my country’s first “super fungus (BJCA001)” , drug resistance and pathogenic characteristics, providing new ideas for the prevention and treatment of clinical “super fungus” infections.

Through years of excavation and research on traditional fungal drugs, the State Key Laboratory of Mycology has built the first integrated resource library of advanced fungal strains, standard fermentations and pure compounds on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China, and has successfully developed anti-therapeutic metabolic drugs with high safety and significant efficacy. Syndrome’s new drug candidate molecule 7d reveals the central role of intestinal flora in drug efficacy.

And this is just the “tip of the iceberg” of the many achievements of the State Key Laboratory of Mycology.

Today, the Mycological Herbarium collects 510,000 fungal specimens and names 350,000. The collection accounts for about 60% of the total number of fungal specimens in domestic collections. It is the largest fungal herbarium in Asia and the largest mycology research center in the world. mechanism.

With the advancement of science and technology, the importance of fungi to the national economy and public health has become more prominent.

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