While there are plenty of species of mushroom that are perfectly edible, there are even more that can make ill or even kill you if you eat one. In the process of studying how these fungi manage to be so poisonous, a team of researchers at Michigan State University may have discovered a way to create a new generation of pharmaceuticals with highly targeted side effects, according to Geek.
The study, which is available in the journal Chemistry and Biology, talks about a previously undiscovered enzyme that’s behind the deadliness of poisonous mushrooms. The study also reveals how the enzyme contributes to the manufacture of chemical compounds known as cyclic peptides, which is a type of molecule that many pharmaceutical companies favor.
“Mushrooms are prolific chemical factories, yet only a few of their peptides are poisonous,” said plant biologist Jonathan Walton in a statement, as quoted by Nature World News. “These toxins survive the high temperatures of cooking and the acids of digestion, and yet they’re readily absorbed by the bloodstream and go directly to their intended target. These are the exact qualities needed for an effective medicine.”
Youth Health notes that, while the study certainly doesn’t encourage the consumption of these mushrooms, it does suggest that these enzymes could be used to produce medicine that serves only a specific purpose, which could significantly reduce or even completely eliminate possible side effects a the drugs don’t need to affect the patient’s other organs.