"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Australia on the Fungus Olympics, race to search out recent ways to combat disease

We don't often consider microscopic organisms like fungi as being particularly athletic. Certainly not Olympic champions.

But to know more about it Fungus — including molds and yeasts — could lead on to recent ways to forestall the devastating diseases they could cause. That is why we're competing this yr. Fungus Olympics.

It's a global competition by which teams have to search out ways to encourage certain fungi to navigate a microscopic obstacle course. There shall be a winner, but everyone advantages from the knowledge gained within the tournament.

Good and bad in fungi

Fungal yeasts and molds are highly aware of the surfaces they colonize, and may navigate by a basic sense of “touch” and chemical sensing.

This sensing ability makes fungi devastating to the plants we grow for food. For example, the fungus that causes Rust diseases in cereal crops They sense aphids on plant leaves and may grow to invade pores on the leaf surface.

But not all fungi are bad. Something useful Mycorrhizal fungi Colonize plant roots and help plants grow by providing nutrients.

In human health, fungi have benefits and drawbacks.

Antibacterial compounds extracted from mold The twentieth century ushered within the antibiotic era with unprecedented improvements in human health.

But the worldwide impact of human fungal diseases is a neglected problem. it's Estimated that cocci kills more people every year than tuberculosis and malaria.

With their invasive filaments, called hyphae, some fungi are adapted to hunt down and penetrate susceptible tissues to spread life-threatening infections.

Invasive hyphae invade human tissue and spread fungal disease.
Dr David Ellis, University of Adelaide

Finding ways for sneaky hyphal filaments to penetrate human tissues and spread infection is the stuff of nightmares.

When fungicides not work.

Controlling harmful fungal plant and human diseases will turn out to be harder in the long run.

Similar to the issue of antibacterial drug resistance, antifungal drugs and Fungicides are becoming less effective Because of the acquired resistance.

It can be increasingly difficult and expensive to develop recent antifungal compounds that may kill fungal cells while remaining non-toxic to host cells.

A brand new idea is to search out alternatives to killing fungal cells, equivalent to ways to remove their sensory abilities to forestall them from recognizing plant or animal hosts.

This is why understanding how the cookie perceives and responds to surfaces is a very important area of ​​research.

An unconventional Olympics

In 2018 I learned in regards to the inaugural Fungus Olympics where fungi are competitors and events are held in microscopic mazes.

This yr, there are a minimum of 29 teams including us. We just needed a memorable team name.

But on this Olympiad, the competitors didn't go to the Olympics; The Olympics got here to us.

The events consisted of fabricated microscopic channels molded in soft polymer in small Petri dishes, and mailed to us. The competitors are different fungal organisms, chosen by each team.

Live cell imaging microscope and microfluidic device.
Brian Coad, The creator provides.

To observe the microscopic events, organizers couriered miniature digital microscopes to capture live cell images as fungal hyphae (filaments) raced around and thru the labyrinthine device.

At the “ready” stage of the race, the fungal cells were inserted into the maze and “on the go”, images of the fungi were captured in time-lapse video and uploaded to cloud storage.

Our lab's fourth contestant made quick work of this little event.

In the interest of fairness, only the organizers had access to all competitors' runs, meaning that every team was blind to the fungal strains and specific conditions utilized by the opposite teams.

This is extremely secretive business because using performance-enhancing substances is definitely encouraged within the Fungus Olympics. Each team is free to pick out whatever growth medium and supplements are needed for optimal performance.

With fungi, adjusting the temperature by a couple of degrees here or there, or giving them slightly extra glucose, can turn a weak competitor into an Olympic champion.

Different events presented unique challenges for controlling the fungus. There was:

  • “100-meter dash” and “hurdles” designed to check speed and agility
  • “Weightlifting” to evaluate their ability to force their way through a decent space
  • “Intelligence” and “Details” events to make your mind up how briskly they will navigate through the maze, and find different paths.
Microfluidic device and microscope image of various events. 1. '100m' dash, 2. 'hurdles', 3. 'weightlifting/squeezing', 4. 'intelligence/navigation', 5. 'detail/detail'
Brian Coad, The creator provides.

The final contestants finished their runs in late April, and now it's as much as the judges to decide on the winners based on the fungi's performance.

The results are expected to be announced on Twitter. @FungusOlympics And the prizes were awarded in August. Mycological Society of America meeting

Making sense of fungal sensing

Although fun events just like the Fungus Olympics show that fungi can overcome obstacles and overcome obstacles, there are beneficial lessons to be learned in regards to the relationship between fungi and material properties.

My lab is using these ideas to design recent materials that mimic the chemical and physical properties of plant and animal host tissues. The goal is to higher understand how the cookie uses surface sensing to plan its attack.

If we will discover any inhibitors of fungal sensing to confuse them and forestall host recognition, we will essentially disarm them and thus protect them from any harm.

This is a promising recent strategy for stopping harmful plant and human diseases that doesn't depend on using pesticides to which fungi can develop resistance.

That's why understanding more about fungi sense is sensible in outsmarting these clever pathogens.

So fingers crossed for a medal for our contribution to the Fungus Olympics.