Why I don’t think aluminum is a ‘fungus’ for mold, study says
Posted On June 20, 2021
It was a rainy morning in the fall of 2007 when I walked into the lab of a University of California, Berkeley, microbiologist named Mark S. Wilson.
It was the start of a long, complicated experiment, and Wilson was on the hunt for a new type of fungus to fight.
Wilson and his colleagues were working to develop a way to use a simple enzyme called cephalobacterium salicylate to break down a strain of bacteria that causes the most common type of coronavirus (CCV) infection, known as coronaviral meningitis.
Wilson’s team had already been experimenting with a chemical that was used to make antibiotics for several years, called piperacillin, to fight infection with a strain called CCR5, which can cause meningococcal meningitidis (CMV).
Wilson’s group wanted to learn more about how that enzyme works and if it could be used to fight CCR2, a strain that can cause CCR7, the more common form of CCRV.
What they didn’t know was that the enzyme was actually a fungus.
The team had been working to figure out what a fungus is since the 1930s, but their discovery was the first to show that a fungus, once discovered, could be useful in the fight against it.
Wilson was intrigued, so he began looking into the role fungi played in human health and medicine.
As Wilson and colleagues discovered, fungi are incredibly diverse, with thousands of different types, shapes, and sizes, and all of them have a unique DNA structure that allows them to form complex, symbiotic relationships with their hosts.
“We knew we were going to be doing a lot of work with fungi,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who was a microbiologist at UC Berkeley for 20 years before joining the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013, was already interested in fungi, as well as other organisms.
“I spent a lot time in the lab doing work with archaea and bacteria,” Wilson told me.
He was also fascinated by how the cells in our bodies function.
“My work with viruses and fungal infections really caught my attention,” he said.
But what he found most fascinated him was the importance of fungi to human health.
“They’re the most understudied of all the organisms,” Wilson noted.
He knew that many people had been trying to use fungi to fight disease, but had never really thought much about how they functioned in the human body.
The research was about to take off in the labs of researchers across the world, including at UC-Berkeley and the University at Buffalo in New York City.
It also came at a time when many people were also trying to find a way for humans to control fungi that were causing meningitic infections.
Wilson wanted to know how fungi could help fight CMV and what kind of compounds they were made of.
His team knew that CMV strains were much more common in the environment than most other types of coronovirus, so that made sense.
“When I got involved with the work on this work, I was really focused on the research,” Wilson recalled.
He also had a particular interest in fungi.
He had been interested in how they worked for some time and wanted to understand what they were doing to our cells and how they could help our immune systems fight infections.
He didn’t realize at the time that fungi are also involved in the production of many important substances in our body, including many of the drugs used in the treatment of some types of cancer, and in the manufacture of many other medicines.
Wilson found that fungi, and other fungi, are made from the same proteins that make up most human cells, and also produce a very similar set of enzymes that are the basis for many of our immune system proteins.
This was all fascinating to Wilson, but he also realized that it was possible to use these new findings to find ways to make the compounds in fungi that we already know can help fight certain types of disease.
“Fungi can be made from proteins and then they can be engineered to produce these compounds,” Wilson explained.
He wanted to do something with fungi that would make them useful in human clinical trials and that would also allow them to grow on human cells and in our tissues.
This meant that he needed to figure a way that he could take the DNA of a fungal cell and convert it into an enzyme, which could be then used in human cells to produce compounds.
“That’s where it got really interesting,” Wilson continued.
He and his research team were looking for a way of getting the DNA from a fungulus to the enzymes in order to make these compounds.
So he looked into using enzymes that had already existed in nature.
He thought it might be possible to take some of the DNA that had been in fungi and make a funcozyme that