More than two million people are afflicted with deadly fungal infections all over the world. Sadly, there are very few antifungal infections that are effective against these illnesses. Currently, very little is known about the composition, structure, and functions of fungal cell wall. Antifungal medications of high efficacy cannot be developed unless we have a firm understanding of fungal cell wall.
All anti-fungal infections have to target the cell wall. Nevertheless, researchers at the LSU have recently been successful in determining the structure of cell wall of severely pathogenic fungi. This information could be useful in the development of effective anti-fungal medications, which can efficiently save the lives of millions of people.
Dr. Tuo Wang is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the LSU (Louisiana State University). He and his colleagues were successful in elucidating the cell wall structure of Aspergillus Fumigatus, which is the most commonly found fungi on earth. They elucidated the structure under high resolution.
It is important to note that the aforementioned species of fungi is airborne in nature; this fungal species can be found in both indoor as well as outdoor spaces. Fungal species can multiply at an extra-ordinary rate in people who have a compromised immune system.
More than 200,000 people are affected by fungal infections each year. More than a quarter of these patients also have leukemia, which is a severe form of blood cancer. Due to compromised immunity levels, patients can also succumb and die due to fungal infections.
This is a path-breaking innovation in the sense that the whole cell of fungi was exposed under high-resolution. Anti-fungal drugs can be effectively engineered under such circumstances. This path-breaking research study was finally published in the most reputed, peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications.
According to the team of researchers headed by Dr. Wang, the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is semi-waterproof in nature; there are two types of stiff sugar molecules in the core of these fungal cells. Highly branched sugar molecules would bridge the core structure of fungal molecules; a mixture of sugar-protein would be coating these structures that move persistently.
To determine the structure of this fungus, scientists used the following analytical instrument: dynamic nuclear polarization solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
This instrument is present at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which is located at Tallahassee in Florida, USA. This is a sophisticated, high-resolution instrument through which one can visualize the packing of molecules in native fungal cells, without causing any disturbance. The instrument has not just high sensitivity but also high resolution.
Wang and his group of colleagues also tested whether the existing anti-fungal drugs were effective in combating the pathogenic nature of Aspergillus fumigatus; they conducted these analyses in their laboratory at the Department of Chemistry at LSU.
They also characterized that other fungal species that caused diseases; they research team headed by Dr. Wang collaborated with Dr. Ping Wang, who is a professor working at the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Parasitology at the LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, USA.