Who would have thought that edible oyster mushrooms could potentially hold the way to prevent immune cells in humans from attacking other cells in the body? Recently it has been discovered that these mushrooms use a special type of immune system proteins to pierce into parasites and prey- this finding could help us to fight diseases due to the fact that we and pathogens carry similar proteins.
Although most fungi are quite peaceful, a “small number are able to kill nematode worms and insects”. One of these fungi, the carnivorous oyster mushroom, produces toxins which contain the pleurotolysin protein; individual molecules of this protein “can act like Lego bricks, linking together in rings of 13 on the surface of a cell”. These molecules can punch through “the cell membrane like a nanoscopic cookie cutter, creating an 8-nanometre-wide hole and killing the cell”. It was found that a segment called TMH-2 was vital for the process of punching through the cell membrane; this could potentially be used for “manipulating the human version, perforin… to stop immune cells from attacking our own cells and triggering autoimmune conditions”.
Although this method is far from being implemented in real life, I hope that some day it could be used to stop the loss of insulin cells and other vital cells in the body that are killed in different autoimmune diseases.