Biofuel That Grows Like a Magic Mushroom

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The race is on. With the threat of global warming looming over our heads and rising oil prices -- politicians, environmentalists and everyone in between can agree that the world needs alternative fuel sources (and to diversify its fuel sources). Some people are afraid that today’s best alternatives: biofuels from corn and soy will be destructive to the planet in certain ways as farmers in developing nations slash and burn forests to grow new crops. An Israeli scientist, Prof. Amir Sharon, may have discovered the next best alternative: a funky fungi in the form of a genetically-modified mushroom that yields a large biomass which can be converted into a first-rate biofuel.

Sharon and his team from the Department of Plant Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University have developed a transformation-based approach to cultivating fungi (Aspergillus niger) which means that they have genetically-engineered them to be less sensitive to external conditions and environmental stresses; the mushrooms are more sustainable in culture during fermentation, and have both enhanced growth rate and spore production. As a result, the fungal cultures exhibit a dramatic increase in fresh and dry biomass production, reduced sensitivity to stress conditions, enhanced spore production and extended viability.