If you are wondering what mycology is, you’re not alone. A specialized part of the study of biology, mycology focuses on the study of various types of fungi, such as mushrooms. As such, it is concerned primarily with not only the genetic properties of fungi, but also how their biochemical properties and taxonomy allow them to be used by humans in medicine and food. Because many fungi produce antibiotics, toxins, and other substances, scientists are of course always looking for new and innovative ways to use mycology as a way to help in many important areas. As mycology begins to gain more and more attention in the scientific world, here are some of its most important emerging trends.
If there is one area of medicine where doctors and researchers are anxious to make advances regarding treatment, it is cancer research. In the field of mycology, one of the most exciting trends has been the work conducted on creating a liquid biopsy test that can quickly detect and amplify the DNA results. Much easier to do and less invasive than a tissue biopsy, a liquid biopsy test also results in much faster test results, allowing doctors to make a diagnosis and formulate treatment plans much faster.
Starting to be used more extensively in cancer research, digital PCR is considered to be a major breakthrough in medical mycology. PCR, which stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, focuses on detecting and analyzing nucleic acids. Though PCR has been around since the early 1980s, it has recently been the recipient of numerous technological advances that have led to digital PCR. Extremely sensitive and specific when identifying molecules and their reactions within certain environments, scientists now believe this technique may ultimately become one of the most accurate methods used for early cancer detection.
Viral and Bacterial Infections
Along with its use in cancer research, mycology is also playing a key role in helping scientists gain a better understanding of viral and bacterial infections. Just as with cancer research, digital PCR is expected to play an important part in this area. Up until recently, a culture was considered the best way to determine the presence of viral and bacterial infections. However, as digital PCR has become more advanced, researchers now believe it can replace the standard culture due to it being more sensitive to a wide array of infections. In fact, studies are currently being conducted in the Netherlands using digital PCR on yeast species in an effort to identify those species most responsible for causing infections in humans.
With more and more people worldwide experiencing issues with cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, researchers within the field of medical mycology are beginning to find even more ways fungi can play a role in this area of medicine. Since statins, which are cholesterol-lowering drugs, were first developed from fungi, researchers are examining many more fungi to see if they too can be developed into life-saving drugs. In many studies, scientists are working with the red yeast rice fungus to see if it can be genetically manipulated to produce new statins. Since this particular fungus has already been responsible for synthesizing lovastatin and mevastatin, scientists believe it holds tremendous promise as new analytical technology becomes available.
As digital PCR begins to be used in conjunction with blood cultures, doctors are starting to believe this helps in making more specific drug selections with patients who are fighting cancer or other illnesses. Viewing the latest DNA extraction and analysis methods as something straight out of the future, researchers are confident that the use of PCR in medical mycology will not only help in the study of cancer and infectious diseases, but also lead to tests that will be more accurate, offer quicker turnaround times for results, and be cost-efficient for medical facilities. If this occurs, the emerging trends in mycology will be game-changers.