REI investigators exploring vaccine strategies for candidiasis
Torrance, Calif. (April 29, 2002) — Scientists at Harbor-UCLA Research & Education Institute (REI) are providing new hope for improved prevention and treatment of life-threatening infections caused by fungal pathogens.
Working under the leadership of Dr. John E. Edwards, Jr., Director, Center for Emerging Infections, REI and Chief, Division of Adult Infectious Disease, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, this group has discovered new insights into the mechanisms by which pathogenic fungi adhere to human tissue to gain an advantage in the onset and progression of serious infections. These discoveries provide powerful new possibilities to develop vaccines to protect individuals at increased risk of such infections.
In the last decade, microorganisms previously believed to be relatively harmless have emerged as among the most dangerous. The fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, is a daunting example of this problem. For many individuals, this fungus can be routinely found on skin, in genitourinary sites, and in the mouth. For those suffering from conditions or treatments that compromise immunity, including chemotherapy, renal dialysis, organ transplantation, diabetes, or HIV infection, Candida proliferates and gains access to deeper tissues, where it may reach the bloodstream only to be disseminated to cause infection throughout the body.
Dr. Edwards and his colleagues are leading efforts to prevent or treat candidiasis through the development of vaccine strategies. These scientists and physicians have discovered new insights into how the fungus adheres to human cells, particularly those in the bloodstream. Adherence to cells lining human blood vessels triggers a metamorphosis in this pathogen, providing it new weapons to penetrate into deeper tissues and organs. Unless Candida can adhere to such cells, it is quickly cleared from the bloodstream, and rendered harmless. Based on these concepts, Dr. Edwards and his group are developing new methods to assess the adhesive proteins on the surface of Candida. In turn, this knowledge is providing new approaches for the development of vaccines that will evoke antibodies to block the fungus from binding to tissues in individuals at increased risk of candidiasis.
Harbor-UCLA Research & Education Institute, located on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, is a leading independent, not-for-profit biomedical research institute with an international reputation for scientific discovery, the training of physician-scientists and the provision of community service programs. It is an affiliate of both the UCLA School of Medicine and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and has an annual budget of $58 million.
The Institute traces its roots back to 1952, when researchers and physicians joined forces with the UCLA School of Medicine on the campus of what was then known as Harbor General Hospital to conduct a handful of research studies. Today, more than 1,000 research projects and clinical trials are being conducted at REI, advancing scientific understanding in order to improve medical outcomes and promote innovation in such areas as autoimmune disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, developmental disorders and other pediatric health problems, diabetes, infectious disease, inherited disorders, male contraception, vaccine evaluation and research, and various aspects of women’s health.