Monday, 28 September 2009

£2.2 million funding for research into antifungal drugs

Massive new funding by the UK government into researching new antifungal drugs was announced today. This is a further commitment to the funding already in place (£2.3 million) for several projects looking for new antifungals (aka antimycotics) or new targets for future antifungal drugs - see the Medical Research Council webpages for further details.

The new funding is to look for new targets in Aspergillus fumigatus for antifungal drugs to attack, thus making possible new types of antifungal drugs to fight alongside established drugs that are currently in use such as itraconazole, voriconazole, posaconazole (all of which use similar targets) and amphotericin.

The funding is being given to the van Aalten laboratory in Dundee, Scotland, UK for a period of five years and will pay for a team of five researchers to conduct a sustained project of basic research under the supervision of Prof van Aalten. The van Alten lab has an extensive publication record in molecular and structural biochemistry so will be able to use this wealth of experience and excellent facilities to progress the projects aims.

Once targets are identified by this basic research this location has the added advantage of also hosting a large Drug Discovery Unit dedicated to the gereration of new drugs - progress will be uninhibited by any shortage of expertise or facilities!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Valerie & John Evans donate birthday presents to the Fungal Research Trust

The Fungal Research Trust have funded many research projects over the last 18 years (see charity number 1003361 on the Charity Commision website) spending over £300 000 in 2008. Net administrative spending was 1.3% in 2008 so this is a highly efficient charity spending money where it counts.

Published papers resulting from research funded by the FRT are many and are listed here.

The FRT supports several initiatives to support people suffering from aspergillus infections in collaboration with the new National Aspergillosis Centre, taking over many of the aspirations of the now defunct Aspergillus Trust. The FRT runs a large patient support group (Aspergillus Support) and supports a large website that provides information for patients (Aspergillosis Patient Support).

The FRT is totally supported by donations so every pound donated counts towards future research into aspergillosis and future patient support projects. Personal donations are particularly touching and welcome so when John Evans decided to donate his birthday presents to the Trust it was more than welcome.
John and his wife Valerie are pictured above handing a cheque to the Director of the National Aspergillosis Centre Professor David Denning who is receiving the cheque on behalf of the Fungal Research Trust.

Donate to the Fungal Research Trust

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Gabby comes home

Gabby is a male osprey raised as part of the recolonisation efforts at Lake Yankto, Ohio. Sometimes known as the 'fish eagle' this impressive raptor has been the subject of many successful projects to restore them to their wild homes in many locations across the world(US, UK, Spain) after a serious decline in population during the 1960's & 70's due to the overuse of the insecticide DDT.

Gabby, like many birds of prey is susceptible to aspergillosis when stressed and Gabby fell prey to this infection while a very young bird in captivity. He recovered after being treated at the restoration project centre but has since had to be rescued on several occasions after attempts to return him to the wild failed. After nine attempts he will now be kept permanently at the centre and play his part in the project by helping educate the public of the importance of preserving these birds.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Clever cloak prevents immune recognition of airborne fungal spores

Recent scientific work published in Nature in August, has illuminated the means by which inhaled spores of aspergillus avoid recognition by the immune system. The air we breathe is loaded with many types of fungal spores but it is not known why inhaling these spores does not continuously activate the host's immune system and promote a detrimental immune inflammation. So the spores (or conidia) must have a means of evading the immune system.

The spore surface of many fungi is covered with a layer of regularly arranged fibres known as the rodlet layer - in Aspergillus species this layer is responsible for a high level of hydrophobicity - composed of the hydrophobic RodA protein covalently bound to the conidial cell wall.
In laboratory studies, RodA when extracted from aspergillus conidia, did not induce activation of immune cells in vivo - it appears to be immunologically inactive. However when the rodlet layer was removed either chemically or genetically using a mutant strain - the modified conidia stimulated immune responses. All the scientist's observations indicate that the rodlet layer on the conidial surface acts as an invisibility cloak - so far as the human immune system is concerned.

Interestingly during germination of conidia, the RodA protein appears to be degraded, exposing the underlying immunogenic cell wall components usually masked by this rodlet layer. So germinating spores will evoke immune responses in an individual.

Aspergillus makes it to the movies

In the newly released Pedro Almodovar film "Broken Embraces" a young boy is treated in Madrid for aspergillosis. The film is an intense tale of passion and tragedy - a Spanish film with subtitles.

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