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article imageHarnessing yeast to fight fungal pathogens

By Tim Sandle     Oct 31, 2015 in Science
Yeast cells interacting in social communities are being studied to see if they can be harnessed to develop therapeutic strategies against pathogenic fungi.
Some yeasts are harmless, others are beneficial and some, like Candida albicans, are potentially pathogens. Can yeasts that do no cause infections be harnessed to push back those that are infectious? The answer could be yes, based on the way yeasts interact in biological communities.
The way that yeast-like fungi function together in social communities has been exploited by people in bread and beer production. Recent research has focused on the way yeast cells interact. Although there is a community function in terms of the yeast cells interacting in a process (such as turning sugar into alcohol), some studies suggest that individual yeast cells have specific functions.
This includes some yeast cells exchanging biological material (like amino acids or the nucleobases that constitute DNA). What is interesting with this is that yeast cells share this material with cells descended from the same ancestor but not with other yeast cells that come from a different community.
By artificially manipulating yeast cells, to stop this process from happening as yeast cells divided, researchers grew a set of yeast cells – over multiple generations – that were deficient in different nutrients.
By adding these cells back into a yeast community, it was found that the nutrionally deficient yeast cells continued to survive because other yeast cells were sharing the needed nutrients with them.
The implication of the research is that it could lead to a means to inhibit growth of pathogens by blocking the exchange of metabolites between the cells of harmful organisms. In other words, beneficial yeasts could outperform pathogenic ones. It may even be possible to apply the research to tackling tumour cells.
The research was carried out at the University of Cambridge (U.K.) and the findings are published in the journal eLife. The research paper is headed “Self-establishing communities enable cooperative metabolite exchange in a eukaryote.”
More about Yeast, candida, Fungi, Immunity, Infection
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