Monday, April 4, 2011

Cryptococcus: A fungus that loves the sugar in your brain

Cryptococcus is a genus of fungus and it grows in a culture in the form of a yeast. Usually a fungus only has about two genes but Cryptococcus has about twelve. This large number of genes allows this fungus to borrow inositol from a persons' brain by encoding for sugar transport molecules. Inositol is a sugar found in the human brain, as well as in the spinal cord. The yeastlike fungi consume inositol, because it's a sugar and because sugar, especially this one, helps it reproduce and more specifically to reproduce sexually. This fungus sexually reproduces because, "A connection between the high concentration of free inositol and fungal infection in the human brain,"which was stated by Chaoyang Xue, Ph.D.This fungus then has a fondness to infect the brain and possibly cause meningitis or other infections. Although before this fungus was interested in the brain, it found inositol on plants in the wild. M.D.,  Ph.D., Joseph Heitman, who is the chairman of the Duke department Molecular Genetics and Microbiology stated that this fungus, "…has the machinery to efficiently move sugar molecules inside of its cells and thrive." Scientists have thought of a way to possibly prevent Cryptococcus infections by putting them on a fungal equivalent of an Atkins diet; known as a low-carb diet. This would deter the sugar loving fungus from multiplying which in return would possibly stop infections.


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