1st October 2020

Fungal Disease Awareness Week 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced 21st to 25th of September 2020 as the Fungal Disease Awareness Week . The CDC website under the “Think Fungus” headline highlights key publications with insights on fungal disease. We are using this opportunity to discuss the impact of the fungal pathogens studied by the Johnston group in human disease.

The first pathogen we are working on is Candida albicans. Candida is a fungal pathogen that usually lives and co-exists with the human host, however in incidences where the host is weak or has damage to the skin or organs like the gut the fungus gets the chance to switch into an unfriendly pathogen. The disease caused by Candida is called Candidiasis, this is a big group of diseases which can be mild to dangerous depending on the infection. Candidiasis occurs in areas with mucus such as in the vagina and the mouth it is also more commonly named as thrush. In more severe cases it can grow on catheters and can even enter the bloodstream. Bloodstream entry is the most severe cause of Candidiasis. According to statistics from the CDC over 3.6 million US dollars per year are spent to treat Candidiasis which indicates how common this disease can be.

Candida albicans - depending on the host environment - can also prevent or encourage bacterial infections. Candida is an important group of fungal pathogens that sometimes is not very well known by the media because of the varying severity of disease however it is quite critical as there is resistance arising to antifungals and in very ill patients it can even be the leading cause of death.

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The second infection we work on is cryptococcosis. Cryptococcosis is mostly caused by Cryptococcus neoformans, or in some cases, by Cryptococcus gattii. Cryptococcus, like Candida, is a kind of yeast that can also cause disease. The majority of people who develop cryptococcosis have a poorly-functioning immune system; for example, those with HIV/AIDS, with certain blood cancers or those taking immune-suppressing medications. Cryptococcus lives in the natural environment, meaning that the source of infection can be certain tree species, or even pigeon poo. We know that it’s inhaled, so infection starts in the lungs. From there, Cryptococcus manages to escape the lungs and infects different organs around the body - the most severe form of which is called cryptococcal meningitis, when it infects the brain. Cryptococcal meningitis is difficult to treat, often difficult to diagnose and nearly uniformly fatal. Cryptococcal meningitis causes hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, and is responsible for 15% of HIV/AIDS-related deaths. Even if you are lucky enough to survive this devastating infection, it’s likely that after the infection, you’ll suffer from its effects for years afterwards.

Click here to learn more!

6th July 2020

simon recognised as a super visionary!

We all want to thank and congratulate Dr Simon Johnston for being recognised as a Supervisor for promoting well being!

Every year The University of Sheffield asks students to nominate supervisors who they believe go above and beyond in their job. This year Simon was recognised for his amazing work in encouraging good mental health and well being amongst his students. Thank you Simon for being an amazing supervisor and mentor! You can read more entries here!

6th July 2020

sign up to dimen diversity's first event

Our very own Mahrukh Shameem is organising an event as the president of DiMeN Diversity. Mahrukh - part of the MRC DiMeN DTP - is organising an event entitled 'Inspiring Diversity in STEM'. Please sign up to her event which has 4 speakers and 2 interactive sessions!

We are all very excited to attend this webinar! Click here to join us on the 3rd of August 2020!

26th June 2020

Phd opportunity

If you are interested in becoming part of the Johnston Lab, please take a look at the Commonwealth scholarship and get in touch if you are interested putting together an application! Please take note of the countries eligible.

23rd June 2020

New publication!

Our very own Dr. Josie Gibson has published her first paper in Autophagy! Her paper shows hows selective autophagy is beneficial for Staphylococcus aureus infected neutrophils. S. aureus is a significant pathogen of humans in both its sensitive and MRSA forms. Our immune system is very good at controlling this pathogen, but it only takes a slight advantage to the bacterium for them to cause serious diseases. Here we were show that neutrophils control S. aureus infection but some can escape through the phagosome.

Cells can detect when bacteria escape phagosomes. We found that these escaped S. aureus were being attacked via 'xenophagy' and looked at the adapter p62/SQSTM1 that had been previously associated with 'handling' S. aureus. Using a transgenic zebrafish with a tagged p62 and found that p62 marked escaped S. aureus in neutrophils. To support the role of p62/SQSTM1 in the handling of escaped S. aureus, we reduced the amount of p62 in neutrophils and made a p62 that could not activate autophagy. In both cases the infection was made worse. Our research shows the importance and role of p62 in control of S. aureus by neutrophils, how effective neutrophils are at controlling bacteria and how many different ways they need to stay ahead of this and all the other cunning microbes.

For the complete article, please use the following link:

Figure 1. Staphylococcus aureus location within neutrophils changes from vesicular to cytosolic throughout infection (C) Tg(mpx:eGFP)i114 larvae were injected at 1 dpf with 1500 cfu SH1000 mCherry S. aureus, and imaged at 3 h post-infection. Images were captured every 5 min for 12 h at multiple z planes to follow infected neutrophils over time (scale: 5 µm). (E) S. aureus with Lc3 marking the entire vesicle (scale: 9 µm), demonstrating a vesicle. (F) S. aureus in the cytosol (scale: 9 µm).
22nd May 2020

Mahrukh joins fight against COVID-19 at Lighthouse Lab

The government has established three diagnostic testing labs to support the national effort against the coronavirus pandemic. Our very own Mahrukh Shameem is currently working at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab in Cheshire, joining a team of talented, highly qualified experts from across the country to provide coronavirus diagnostic testing. Mahrukh is very excited about this experience and says:

" This pandemic has had a huge strain on the community and the health sector. It has had devastating effects on communities and I personally know of people who have lost their lives to this disease. Because of this, I was determined to help in any possible way possible, providing lab and technical assistance. I am very grateful to the Alderley Park Lighthouse Lab, and the amazing people I work alongside there, for the incredible work they're doing. Everyone has been so wonderful and open and we have created a community within ourselves. It is so empowering to be part of a diverse background of scientists and researchers, all working towards this common goal. I will always be thankful for this experience"

To learn more about The Lighthouse lab please click here and follow them on Twitter.

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29h April 2020

Congratulations Aleks!

Congratulations to Dr Aleksandra Bojarczuk on passing her viva! Due to the current pandemic, we can not be there to celebrate with her but we send her virtual hugs! We all wish her the best of luck in her future endeavours!

Aleks (top left) with her examiners

28th January 2020

Congratulations Kate!

We all want to congratulate Dr Katherine Pline on passing her viva with flying colours! She has somehow figured the secret key to escaping the Johnston Lab! We all wish her the best of luck in her future!

14h January 2020

Stella won a poster prize!

A big well done to Stella! She won first place poster prize in the Innovations in Experimental Research category at the University of Sheffield NC3Rs Symposium in January! Her poster was entitled "Elucidating the role of cell wall composition and hyphal switch in the host-pathogen interactions of Candida albicans” and she brilliantly showed how she replaced the use of mice in her project. To find out more read here!

10th December 2019

Jacob wins at biotech yes!

We all want to say a massive congratulations to Johnston Lab's own Jacob Rudman! In collaboration with fellow DiMeN DTP students, Jacob won the Best Engineering Team and Best Financial Planning Awards at the Biotechnology YES 2019 competition!

Jacob and the team had to set up a fictional biotechnology company based around real, novel renewable technology. This included putting together a legal strategy and financial planning. The final took place at the prestigious Royal Society in London. Read more here!