Research Fellows Directory
Dr Alexandra Brand
University of Aberdeen
Fungal infections in humans can be fatal but are difficult to treat. Fungal cells function in much the same way as their host, making it hard to find drugs that kill the fungus without harming the patient. I am studying how fungi are able to invade human tissue and what makes some species pathogenic to humans while others are not. Interestingly, some of the genes and proteins important for fungal invasiveness also play key roles in human cell and organ development. Because fungal genetics are relatively easy to manipulate, we can extend our knowledge of fungi into human cells to model how growth is regulated across all species. Fungal cell development also plays a role in the formation of medical biofilms, which are aggregates of bacteria and fungi that build up on plastic medical devices such as catheters and stomach-tubes. Some patients develop problem biofilms more than others, so we are trying to find out to what extent the patient’s own microbes promote biofilm formation, and whether we can develop new plastics that inhibit these species. Because fungi synthesise a huge variety of bio-active molecules with medical applications, such as statins and immune-suppressants, I am also using my knowledge of fungal cell biology to discover new enzymes that produce bio-active molecules with the potential to be developed as novel therapeutics. Fungi can be our friends and our foes, so a good understanding of how they work will yield benefits across many aspects of medicine.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)