Monday, November 23, 2015

New Research into the Fungi in Our Body

Researchers at the University of Toronto began looking into a very common fungus in our bodies called, Candida albicans. This fungus is even more prevalent in mucus in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. (Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes infections in the lung due to mucus and can cause difficulty breathing for patients with it.)More often than not, this fungus does no harm, but it will attack those with weakened immune systems such as people with HIV, cancer, etc. It is particularly dangerous due to its ability to change shape from round, single-celled to long and stringy. Its ability to change shapes allows for survival in many different environments in the body. This process of transforming is called filamentation.

In this study, the researchers took samples from 28 cystic fibrosis patients for genetic sequencing. Because this fungus usually needs a trigger to change shape, the researchers looked into the genes of this fungus. All but one of the samples had a mutation in the NR1 gene which is supposed to stop the occurrence of filamentation. The fungi was exposed to the bacteria that is usually prevalent in the mucus as well. This bacteria usually secretes a molecule that stops the fungi from transforming, but the fungi seemed to have developed defenses to these bacteria.

Although there is still no cure for this awful disease, this is one step in the right direction. Most people underestimate the impact that fungi have on health in the world. As of now there is not enough research being done on them to really understand how they impact us. Leah Cowen, head researcher, stated that fungi kill 1.5 million people every year. Why are they not getting more attention? Candida albicans is present in all of us and has a possibility of harm if in the right conditions. I definitely think more has to be done in researching this, especially if knowing more could help to cure this disease.

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