Student Training: Steven Tabor, Senior undergraduate in Microbiology, works in the Goodell Lab and here is preparing organotypic brain slice samples for culture as part of collaborative research with UMass-Med and the Goodell Lab.
Fungal Oxidative Mechanisms & Pathogenesis
Our lab focuses on redox-cycling mechanisms and oxygen radical generation in systems that impact both humans and the environment. Specifically we explore how fungi and other organisms in the environment "deconstruct" woody biomass, but also how closely related fungi initiate pathogenesis in the human brain. This has also lead to research on related redox cycling mechanisms and how they may impact lysosomal dysfunction in the brain.
In the environment we study fungal degradative chemistries from both the perspective of carbon cycling in the environment and also how the fungal mechanisms can be used in biomimetic processes to develop commercial processes to produce biofuels or renewable chemicals. In particular, our group has pioneered the discovery of a highly-efficient non-enzymatic mechanism that a specialized group of degradative Basidiomycota fungi employs to decay wood and woody materials, and we continue to advance our knowledge of this unique system.
In human disease research, we study a fungus that kills 181,000 people each year, but that evolved from fungal species that inhabit forest niches and decay wood. Cryptococcus neoformans evolved to attack the brain in ways not well understood. It produces an infectious granuloma in the brain (cryptococcoma), and it thrives in the phagolysosomes of cells to cause Cryptococcal meningitis.
The mechanisms the fungus employs in pathogenesis are also not well known. We are exploring the extracellular redox chemistries generated by this fungus to better understand the pathological condition, and are conducting our research in cooperation with colleagues at the UMass-Medical School and at Virginia Tech.