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By looking at the life cycle of mushrooms, such as maitake, scientists have not only learned the logic of their stimulating effect on cell-mediated immunity, they have also discovered how to enhance maitake's medicinal properties through cultivation. Mushrooms sit close to the lowest rung in the ecosystem, thriving on decaying materials in a very hostile environment. During the growing stage maitake send out thin hairs called mycelia that secrete powerful enzymes to digest food outside the cell. Since the mushroom needs to absorb the digested food, it must first deactivate any natural pathogens by utilizing its unique polysaccharide peptide properties. Mushrooms are also very proficient at expelling undesirable chemicals and contaminants that are absorbed during ingestion. Therefore, in order for maitake and other mushrooms to compete and thrive, their very existence depends on their biologically unique, aggressive, and adaptive immune system.

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