An Interesting Article About Yeast

I found this interesting article about my favorite organism, both personally and scientifically, from RSBS. The article talks about the commercial importance of yeast in making beer, bread and wine. It also talks about the hypothesis that yeast may have played a large role in our civilization.
Yeast, it seems, might even have prompted the beginnings of modern civilization. According to some historians, humans gave up their nomadic ways and settled in villages to grow grain for baking and brewing after they discovered the benefits of yeast, namely fermentation and leavening.

One of the most interesting parts of the article, for me at least, was the yeast collection of the late Herman J. Phaff at UC Davis.

The university’s Department of Food Science and Technology houses one of the world’s largest collections of yeast, with more than 500 species and 6,000 strains, including heirloom wine yeast from California and Europe.

Much of the collection was gathered by professor Herman J. Phaff, who has been called the Indiana Jones of yeast.

On expeditions to Japan, Argentina, the Caribbean and Mexico, Phaff gently scraped samples of yeast from tree branches and fruit, cactuses, flowers and rotting stumps. He brought the prizes back to UC-Davis, where he worked for decades.

There is mention of a few ways science done with yeast benefits humans. However, both of examples are applied science. As a yeast researcher I get annoyed that basic research in yeast (and basic research in general) gets short shrift in the media. For example, an article I read about genome sequencing in Wired several years ago listed yeast as commercially important, but not scientifically important.

Yeast research has been tremendously important in our understanding of basic biological problems. Studies of the yeast cell cycle paved the way for studies of the mammalian cell cycle. The 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given for cell-cycle work. Two of the three recipients won for their work in yeast. Leland Hartwell for work in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Sir Paul Nurse for his work in Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

The end of the article has some quotes from bakers and brewers, and talks about the use of yeast commercially.
The brewery [an Anheuser-Busch plant in California] can produce 136 million gallons of beer each year. But all that Budweiser depends on the well-being of the yeast, a secret strain used by Anheuser-Busch since 1876.
It's too bad that this secret yeast strain is used largely to create such bad beer.

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