Photo of Boletus edulis by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
The Boletaceae family of mushrooms “display a phallus-like morphology formed by a stalk a cap,” or a shaft and a bell-end to you and me. When these mushrooms were given the pharmacological compound “Sildenafil,” used for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction as Viagra, scientific researcher Gabriele Losa discovered that the synthetic drug increased fractal growth.
Boletus edulis, a Basidiomycete of the Boletaceae family, can be found gathered around beechwood trees (Fagus) in Ticino, an Italian district in the southern part of Switzerland. In his studies, Losa noted some similarities in the “phallus-like morphology” of the mushrooms may be influenced by “various environmental agents, including growth factors and complex molecules such as polyphenols and other antioxidants.”
Some analogies had also been noted between “Sildenafil” (Viagra) and the “chemical structure of natural polyphenols, flavonoids and many other cyclic compounds as rosamarinic acid abundant in macro-fungi, which exhibited an antioxidant free-radical scavenging activity.” Such changes prompted an investigation into the possible growth effects on Boletus type mushrooms by Sildenafil. In other words, researchers gave a selection of mushrooms Viagra, and some others a placebo, to see if the drug would affect their growth.
The results showed the mushrooms given Sildenafil had “a significant growth increase as expressed by numerical desnity [#B/m2], which ranged from 0.15 at time zero to 0.5 at day 14 of treatment, whilst it remained stable around 0.2 without significant changes in the control domain.”
Knowing the role of sildenafil on certain parts of the male human body, one can easily hypothesize an analogous effect on other, rather different biological targets such as Boletus mushrooms. According to such a hypothesis, in these mushrooms, a strengthened lymph drawing and water afflux suitable to permeate the roughage tissue, thus favoring both firmness of stalk and smoothness of cap. If so, then the effect induced in mushrooms might mimic the polymorphous effect observed in human males.
But how to explain the observed diverging behavior? On the one hand, the numerical density [#B/m2] increased by 35%, proving a significant growth of Boletus after fourteen days of treatment. On the other hand, the height dimensions of specimens treated with Sildenafil were found smaller than those of control area, with data interval ranging between 6.5-8.1 cm and 7.4-9.6 cm respectively.
Hence in this experimental system the growth rate was inversely related to Boletus height. The fractal dimension values recorded on the cap and stalk border outlines of Boletus mushrooms deserved a critical comparison with data recovered in the living realm; in the former fractal dimension values ranged between 1.10 and 1.23 rather close to fractal dimension values recorded on contour profiles of most biological structures and cell tissues, notably liver cells, healthy lymphoid and white blood cells, leukemic circulating cells, oocytes, immature astrocytes and neuronal cells, all characterized by a similar degree of irregularity (Losa & Nonnenmacher 1996). Unfortunately, fractal dimension data on mushrooms have never been calculated (or at least have not been reported in the scientific literature).
To sum up: The numerical density (#B/m2) of the mushroom was increasing with time, i.e. from 0.15/m2 up to 0.5/ m2 at day 14 of treatment, while the fractal density reduced from 1.23 to 1.11. Thus, there was a significant reduction of border profile complexity and irregularity in Boletus mushrooms that were treated with Sildenifil, a drug that provokes penile erections in human males.
And the conclusion?
Our investigation highlighted the main fractal principle which rests on the unlimited iteration of a unit fragment as a chief generator, either determined or unknown, until completion of the whole structure. The same principle serves to explain the fractality of growth mechanisms, the irregularity of morphological structures and the complex dynamics of living processes which occur at different spatial and temporal scales in connection with the principle of the recursive genome function (Pellionisz 2008), all the phenomena implicated in growth and maintenance of the fascinating and mysterious kingdom of mushrooms.
Fascinating indeed, and you can read the complete paper here, and below, this is what mushrooms on Viagra look like. None too appetizing…
H/T Nerdcore, via Improbable Research
Posted by Paul Gallagher |