Research on fungi may help combat infectious illness in those with weakened immune systems.

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Professor Peter Lipke Elected Fellow by the American Academy of Microbiology

May 12, 2014

Biology Professor Peter Lipke.

Professor Peter Lipke of the Department of Biology was recently named a fellow by the American Academy of Microbiology for his research on the cell walls of Candida albicans, a naturally occurring fungus that populates the human gut and mucous tissue in animals. His work has has implications for improving the health of those with compromised immune systems, due to conditions like HIV, chemotherapy, or organ transplant.

"I'm honored by this election," said Lipke, who joined the Brooklyn College faculty in 2006. "This fellowship recognizes the importance of our particular field of study within microbiology."

For the past 36 years, Lipke has been studying the cell surface of fungi. His research has been key in understanding the role of functional amyloids—or protein structures—in fungal cell walls

"Amyloids enable the fungus to adhere to many points on a healthy cell," he explains. "This would turn out to be a critical finding if it becomes useful to combating C. albicans."

He adds that in healthy patients, C. albicans is normally enveloped by the body's own bacteria or netrutrophils, a type of white blood cell that operates as first responder when the immune system is under attack. 

C. albicans can cause yeast infections in the mouth, throat and genitals, and is an acute problem among several vulnerable populations of immuno-compromised patients. It is also the fourth most common infection in hospitals.

"My goal is to continue to do interesting science to train and promote our greatly diverse student population," says Lipke. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A former chair of the biology department, Lipke has received grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Minority Biomedical Research Support, among others.

American Academy of Microbiology fellows are elected through a highly selective, annual peer review process based on each scientist's record of achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. The Academy is the honorific leadership group of the American Society of Microbiology.


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