New study finds titan cells protect Cryptococcus

May 28, 2012

Giant cells called "titan cells" protect the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans during infection, according to two University of Minnesota researchers. Kirsten Nielsen, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of microbiology, and recent Ph.D. recipient Laura Okagaki believe their discovery could help develop new ways to fight infections caused by Cryptococcus.

The findings will be published in the June issue of the journal . The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Minnesota's Medical School.

Cryptococcus, a fungus frequently found in dust and dirt, is responsible for the deaths of more than 650,000 worldwide each year. It is also a potentially deadly concern among chemotherapy and organ transplant patients. Currently, Cryptococcus causes more annual deaths in sub-Saharan Africa than tuberculosis.

"While most healthy individuals are resistant to Cryptococcus infections, the fungus can cause for those with already weak immune systems," said Dr. Nielsen.

When inhaled, Cryptococcus can cause an infection in the lungs. This infection can spread to the brain and result in meningitis, an often-deadly inflammation of the brain and spine.

Nielsen and Okagaki found that titan cells, or Cryptococcus cells ten to twenty times the size of a normal cell, are too large to be destroyed by the body's .

Researchers also found the presence of titan cells can protect all Cryptococcus cells in the area, even the normal sized Cryptococcus cells.

"This tells us that titan is an important aspect of the interaction between the human/host and the organism that allows Cryptococcus to cause disease," said Nielsen. "This information will help us find new ways to treat Cryptococcus infections that are very difficult to treat with currently available drugs."

Explore further: Team develops 'cool' new method for probing how molecules fold

Related Stories

Predicting fatal fungal infections

Jun 16, 2009

In a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have identified cells in blood that predict which HIV-positive indivi ...

GE eucalyptus tree investigation urged

Jun 15, 2007

Several U.S. environmental groups are upset concerning a possible link between a pathogenic fungus and genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

Recommended for you

Discovery in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

55 minutes ago

For four years, researchers at Universite catholique de Louvain have been trying to find out how bacteria can withstand antibiotics, so as to be able to attack them more effectively. These researchers now understand how one ...

Stem cells born out of indecision

55 minutes ago

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into embryonic stem cells and how blocking their ability to make choices explains why they stay as stem cells in culture. The results have just been published ...

Protection of the mouse gut by mucus depends on microbes

3 hours ago

The quality of the colon mucus in mice depends on the composition of gut microbiota, reports a Swedish-Norwegian team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.