Katharina Ribbeck’s lab Collect mucus – the sticky substance that often occurs in areas such as the mouth, intestines, reproductive tract, and intestines. While the gooey goo may not be pretty in the first place, the purification process can brighten it up. “Once you remove the microparticles and microbes, it becomes a beautiful, beautiful clear gel — like egg whites,” said MIT bioengineering professor Rebec. “It’s really pretty.”
Ribbeck cares about saliva as she tries to deconstruct how glycans, tiny sugar molecules hidden in mucus, keep specific organisms healthy. Scientists already know that mucus is important for maintaining human health and supporting the microbiome. According to the work of Ribbeck and others, the work of glycans is crucial. They focus on managing beneficial microbes—helping with food digestion, regulating immunity and preventing bacterial infections—but sometimes if they compete with each other or become toxic, they can lead to infection. Like microscopic conductors, glycans ensure that every part of the microbial orchestra is playing in harmony.
In a study published this month nature chemical biologyRibbeck and her collaborators show how glycans maintain a Candida albicans (Candida albicans) from becoming a problem.In this case, the lines between friend and foe are blurred Candida albicansThe fungus is polymorphic, which means it can take on different shapes: round yeast-like structures (often considered normal) can become filamentous thread-like shapes associated with virulence. While the fungus can boost immunity, it can also lead to yeast infections and, even more seriously, blood system infections.
Sing Sing Way, a medical scientist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who was not involved in the study, studies the way the shape changes. Candida Can benefit human health. “Complex microorganisms such as Candida For a long time, it co-evolved not only with humans, but also with other mammalian hosts,” Way said. “They developed strategies that benefited both parties. He believes that if we understand why and how fungi change shape, we can use this relationship to keep them behaving well.
Ribbeck’s group has previously done work to determine how mucus prevents other microbes from becoming dangerous.In this new set of experiments, scientists want to know how Candida albicans.
But first, they need a lot of goo. “It’s very difficult to collect a lot of mucus,” Ribbeck said. “It’s a very precious material.” The team collected three different types of mucus using different methods: inhaling human saliva (similar to how a dentist uses a straw to suck saliva from under a patient’s tongue), and scraping pig intestines and stomachs. internal.Then, they combined the purified mucus with Candida albicans Inside a well plate – a transparent rectangular plate with 96 honeycomb-shaped holes that hold a small amount of fungus.
They found that all three types of mucus prevented the fungus from adhering to the plate compared to the negative control. Candida albicans It also appears rounder when mucus is present, rather than the elongated version associated with filigree. The researchers believe this suggests that mucus can prevent fungi from adhering to body surfaces or forming biofilms, which are sticky, interwoven layers of fungus associated with infection.