Scientists Can Now Grow Parasitic Fungi from ‘The Last of Us’ in a Lab!

Scientists Can Now Grow Parasitic Fungi from ‘The Last of Us’ in a Lab!

If your Spooktober hasn’t felt spooky enough yet, a group of scientists in Korea has discovered a way to grow that terrifying parasitic mushroom from the Last of Us video game in a lab!

As creepy as the Cordyceps fungi are, however, learning how to better grow them in a lab is actually pretty good news since the chemicals they produce could have a beneficial role in our medicine.

The Cordyceps are parasitic, usually only to insects and other arthropods, invading their bodies and using them as fuel to grow before finally killing them.

Then they release spores into the air to infect other small critters and the process starts all over again.

This fungus is part of the Ophiocordyceps family and it’s a well-known fact that some other species “zombify” ants, being able to control their behavior in order to ensure they get the best conditions for their growth and survival.

Before you panic that experimenting with Cordyceps in a lab could turn The Last of Us into a self-fulfilling prophecy, you should know that some species of this mushroom are part of the local cuisine in some areas of Asia.

Not only that but they have also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a long time.

More recently, they are being sold as supplements!

Furthermore, according to research that is still in its early stages, it appears that Cordyceps can produce chemicals that are good for our health.

One compound in particular, cordycepin, could have cancer-fighting or anti-viral effects!

Of course, all of these promising results come from lab or animal studies which means that it will most likely take a long time until we truly know whether or not the potential benefits apply to people as well.

Still, due to the fact that these fungi are hard to find and harvest in the wild, learning how to cultivate them in a lab is a big step forward, even though the current ways only produce very low amounts of healthy Cordyceps or cordycepin.

That being said, Chungbuk National University researchers theorized that they would grow better on insects rather than on brown rice, which is the most common growth medium used until now.

They also theorized that their diet would also control the size the fungi would reach as well as the amount of cordycepin yielded.

The team’s findings after a couple of months of growing the parasitic fungi were published in Frontiers in Microbiology yesterday and the results seem to suggest all of their theories were correct!

Professor Mi Kyeong Lee, who is also the study’s author, states that “Cordyceps grown on edible insects contained approximately 100 times more cordycepin compared to Cordyceps on brown rice.”

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