Without a crystal ball - researchers want to predict the growth of fungi

Research |

More than 100 years ago, industrial biotechnology was founded with the production of citric acid by the fungus Aspergillus niger. Today, among other things, the production of citric acid using fungi represents a multimillion-dollar business for the food and beverage industry. In addition, fungi in spherical pelletized form with diameters of 0.5 - 3 mm are also used for the production of life-saving drugs, enzymes, organic acids or other biotechnological products.

Team photo in front of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in front of the X-ray radiation source Petra III in Hamburg. Stefan Schmideder (TU Munich), Lars Barthel (TU Berlin), Charlotte Deffur (TU Munich), Karin Engelbert (TU Berlin), Anna Dinius (TU Braunschweig), Henri Müller (TU Munich) (from left to right) (copyright: Jörg Hammel)
Development of individual filamentous mold pellets over time in a bioprocess. (image: Chair of Systems Process Engineering)

However, the productivity of the bioprocesses is highly dependent on the microscopic shape of the fungi. This close relationship has led to a variety of analytical methods to quantify their visible shape. Only a method based on micro-computed tomography allows a detailed analysis of the complete 3D micromorphology. However, this laboratory-scale investigation method is hardly suitable for studying the micromorphological evolution of a complete fungal culture in a bioreactor, since a statistically representative number of samples cannot be investigated.

"At Germany's largest accelerator center - the German Electron Synchrotron DESY - we have developed a method based on micro-computed tomography using highly brilliant synchrotron radiation and 3D image processing that makes it possible for the first time to follow the evolution of the shape of an entire fungal culture in a bioprocess at high resolution and in three dimensions over time," explains Henri Müller, a research associate at the Chair of Systems Process Engineering and first author of the study. From the data obtained via 3D image analysis, valuable conclusions can be drawn for production optimization.

"With the help of micro-computed tomography, we can look at the internal structure of the fungal pellets with a completely new level of detail," says Prof Briesen, head of the Chair of Systems Process Engineering, emphasizing the significance of the research findings. "Among other things, such data can now be incorporated into models that can predict the growth of fungi and their productivity," Briesen adds.

More information:

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Scientific contact:
Prof. Heiko Briesen
TUM School of Life Sciences
Chair of Systems Process Engineering

Susanne Neumann
TUM School of Life Sciences
Press- and Public Relations