Microbial biofilms are a significant medical problem involved in ~80% of chronic infections. A key component of the biofilm in many microbial species are long chains of sugars called exopolysaccharides. These polymers are produced by bacteria and fungi, and involved in initial colonization as adhesins, provide three-dimensional structure to the biofilm, and from a disease perspective offer protection against antimicrobial agents and immune defense mechanisms. Our functional characterization of the exopolysaccharides Pel and Psl from Pseudomonas aeruginosa and galactosaminogalactan (GAG) from the fungus Aspergillis fumigatus has led to the identification of several polymer degrading enyzmes. We have found that these enzymes are non-cytotoxic in vitro, rapidly disrupt established biofilms, increase the susceptibility of microbes to neutrophil killing and potentiate the effect of antimicrobials.
In this presentation, Dr Howell will focus on describing the role of sugar polymers in biofilm formation and how they are made and more importantly, will highlight their role and impact in chronic infections. Dr Howell will also discuss the contributions that basic discovery research has made in developing new therapeutics.
Presenter: Dr. P. Lynne Howell
Dr. Howell is a Senior Scientist in the Program in Molecular Medicine at SickKids, and a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the U of T. She has more than 25 years experience as an independent investigator. Dr. Howell holds a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology and was Head of the Program in Molecular Medicine at SickKids from 2002-2014 and Associate Chief, Research Integration and Communication 2014-2016.
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