The Science behind Eco Planet Products

Underlying Focus of Eco Planet Products

Gary StrobelBryan Blatt

Dr. Gary Strobel and Bryan Blatt started Eco Planet as a partnership to develop and market products that were developed utilizing the discoveries from research
conducted by Dr. Strobel over many years.

This research involved the utilization of “Endophytes”, which are naturally occurring microorganisms in plants, usually with the role of protecting the plant from a variety of pathogens and predators.

Dr. Strobel traveled the globe to obtain plant samples to take back to his lab to study and analyze. On one occasion a microbial endophyte was discovered to  produce a potent mixture of volatile antimicrobial compounds. The fungus was a new one to science and was studied and named Muscodor albus – “stinky white” fungus.

Muscodor Albus Antimicrobial Effects

Above left: Muscodor albus growing on a Petri plate. Right:  A plate test showing the inhibitory and antimicrobial effects of the volatiles of M. albus against various pathogenic fungi.  The control plate is on the right the treated plate on the left. A well in the center has an artificial mixture of volatiles of M. Albus.

When the composition of the gases produced by M. albus were analyzed by gas chromatography/ Mass spectroscopy, it was learned that up to 37 different compounds were being produced. When these compounds were made, or purchased and then placed on an assay plate, they had virtually the same antimicrobial activity as the fungus itself (see plates on the right above). This meant that a commercial product could be developed by using the molecules produced by the fungus and not the fungus itself. Ultimately, with years of effort it was learned that only a few compounds were needed for biological activity and these were, by chance, on the FDA –GRAS list ( generally recognized as safe to humans and animals), but deadly to microbial life forms. Now, there are literally hundreds of scientific publications from around the world, relating to the discovery of new species of Muscodor and its amazing bioactive volatile natural products.

Since the volatiles of M. albus and other Muscodor species are so broadly active against disease-causing microbes of plants, Dr Strobel began to examine the possibility that the Muscodors were also active against human and animal pathogens. Ultimately, for instance, it turned out that the volatiles of Muscodor crispans were active against a wide range of animal pathogens and these compounds were also categorized as safe by the FDA.  Pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites have been discovered as targets of these volatile compounds (scientific literature available upon request).

Sick Calf

Using the chemical clues (biomimicry) given to us after the analysis of the gases of the Muscodors, we were able to develop an antimicrobial formula that is not exactly the same as the components of Muscodor but has the same, if not better, activity. This formula has become incorporated into an electrolyte/ hydration solution that is termed Sx –Calf to be used in helping scoured calves become hydrated and regain their health. The Sx solution affects the microbiome of the animal and allows for recovery at a time in their lives when they are too young to mount an immune response. An illustration of the effect of Sx Calf on the recovery of a scoured calf having been administered the 50 ml of the Sx Calf solution is shown to the left. The top figure shows the scoured animal having runny waste (arrow), eyes rolling in the head, ears down and unable to move. The next morning the animal was up and alert looking for its Mom (below).

Other Uses

Since the Sx formula is antimicrobial, it has also been formulated into certain silicates that absorb it and slowly release it into the environment. As such the silicates sort of act like M. albus itself, by inhibiting and killing other organisms. Some microbes, in the presence of urea, break it down into ammonia and this especially becomes problematic in places where animals, including birds, are being raised. Fecal matter contains billions of bacteria which then degrade the urea found in urine. The mixture of the two can result in lethal amounts of ammonia being produced. Now Eco Planet has developed products such as Sx Stall Treatment and CLOE (cat litter odor eliminator) which control bacterial populations that are responsible for ammonia production. Thus, instead of masking the smell of ammonia (as per competing products) the ammonia is actually reduced to a very low level by controlling bacterial populations responsible for ammonia production in the first place.  This same mode of action is being investigated in other applications, such as poultry barns, where ammonia is often at very high and dangerous levels.

Dr Strobel was led to work on endophytes since his interesting discovery in the early 90s of an endophytic fungus that makes taxol, the world’s first billion-dollar anti-cancer drug. He and his colleagues have since found a plethora of novel drugs that have indications as anticancer agents, immunosuppressive molecules as well as antimicrobial agents. Many of these agents have come from a wide range of unique and sometimes endemic plant species growing most often in places where the largest plant diversity occurs in the world, shown below (see map) in the reddish colored areas, such as the Amazonian basin.

Plant Biodiversity
Map showing plant biodiversity in the world which also coincides with microbial biodiversity.

The endophytes can be found in all tissues of the plant but Strobel only gathers small stem fragments and takes them back to the lab. There they are placed on agar plates which encourages fungal growth. The fungi are recovered as pure cultures and then assayed in a number of ways to learn if bioactive agents might be present (processes shown below). These bioassays might look for fungal, bacterial, seed, and root growth inhibition, as well as activity as an antioxidant, and anti-cancer activities.

Stem SpecimenThe processes that Strobel uses to isolate and find bioactive endophytes are illustrated here including removing surface sterilized plant parts from a stem specimen. Placing plant tissues on an agar plate and then transferring the pure culture to a nutrient enriched plate for identification and eventual work and storage.

SpecimenAs a result of all of his academic efforts Dr. Strobel has published over 400 scientific papers in a wide range of journals with some examples including Science, The USA National Academy of Sciences, Microbiology, and Microbial Ecology. He has been recognized for his work with numerous awards and prizes including the Wiley award, the E.O. Wilson award, the Lowell Thomas award from the Explorer’s club of the world and many others. He holds over 70 patents from the United States Patent Office and many more international patents. He has lectured in over 400 universities, research institutes, companies, and national and international conferences- worldwide. His travels have taken him to over 80 countries and most of the world’s temperate and tropical rainforests. He has many hobbies and interests including wood working, photography, fishing and rock/fossil hounding.

The following pages describe how some of these compounds have been used to create products in the EcoPlanet One Health line-up.  Currently, there are four primary products, with others available and several more in testing.