The research team, based at Harvard University
, have identified that a fungus called Stilbella aciculosa
can do something quite remarkable, according to the university’s research brief
. The fungus, a member of the Ascomycete
family, produces spores on stalks during reproduction. It is during this process that a chemical is produced called superoxide.
For the fungus, the superoxide helps its cells to divide. What the scientists have shown is that when the superoxide by-product is released into the environment it reacts with the element manganese. This reaction produces a highly reactive mineral.
The mineral produced can be used to clean-up of toxic metals, according to PhysOrg
. The scientists believe that this mineral can be used for the cleaning of mines and other industrial processes where toxic contaminants, such as arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt, are a problem. These types of toxins, if they enter the water system, can prove to be particularly hazardous.
The research findings were published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in July. The research team was led by Colleen Hansel
, a faculty associate professor of environmental microbiology at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The paper’s reference
Colleen M. Hansel, Carolyn A. Zeiner, Cara M. Santelli, and Samuel M. Webb. Mn(II) oxidation by an ascomycete fungus is linked to superoxide production during asexual reproduction. PNAS, July 16, 2012