Dr. Campbell Gourlay

Campbell Gourlay began his career at The John Innes Centre in 1996 where he studied the genetic control of leaf development. Following this he began to work with budding yeast as a model eukaryote in the lab of Kathryn Ayscough, where he investigated the role of actin in the process of endocytosis. During this time he discovered a link between actin, the regulation of mitochondrial function and the control of ageing and apoptosis. This led to his involvement in the emerging field of yeast apoptosis, which has popularised the novel concept that unicellular organisms possess the ability to undergo programmed cell death as an altruistic act for the betterment of a population. In 2006 he was awarded a five year MRC Career Development Fellowship to establish his own lab within the Kent Fungal Group at the University of Kent where is now a Reader in Cell Biology. The Gourlay lab maintains a strong interest in the role that actin plays in the control of homeostatic mechanisms that contribute to healthy ageing. The lab also uses yeast as a model eukaryote to study a number of aspects of human disease. The group has also diversified to apply its understanding of yeast stress signalling processes and death to the fields of fungal pathogenesis, drug resistance and to the detection and control of fungal biofilms on medical devices. 

 

​Contact: C.W.Gourlay@kent.ac.uk



Visit Campbell​​'s page on the University of Kent website​​​​​​​​​​​:

 https://www.kent.ac.uk/biosciences/people/1095/gourlay-campbell

 

Lab members

Daniel Pentland - Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Education

  • 2012 – 2015, University of Kent, BSc (Hons) Biology

  • 2015 – 2019, University of Kent, PhD Cell Biology

  • 2020- Present - PDRA funded by the National Biofilm Innovation Centre

 

Research Project

A total laryngectomy is a surgical procedure for people with advanced laryngeal cancer which involves the removal of the entire larynx (including the vocal cords). Total laryngectomy patients are unable to speak following the procedure and often have to use a voice prosthesis (a small silicone valve inserted in a hole between the trachea and oesophagus) to restore their speech.

As with any foreign object within the body, voice prostheses are a constant source of infection. In particular, they are susceptible to biofilms formation which, if left to grow, eventually blocks the valve and causes the voice prosthesis to fail. This is a persistent problem with the average voice prosthesis only lasting approximately 6 months before needing to be changed in an invasive procedure. One of the main microorganism species colonising these voice prostheses, and certainly the primary fungal pathogen, is Candida albicans.

The level of CO2 in exhaled breath is approximately 150x that in normal air (~5% compared to 0.03%), meaning voice prostheses are consistently bathed in CO2. It has been shown that CO2 plays a significant role in the promotion of the C. albicans biofilm growth on voice prostheses. As part of my project I am investigating C. albicans biofilm growth on a molecular level, combining this new knowledge with clinical expertise in a multidisciplinary team (MDT) to provide more effective treatment/maintenance options to increase the lifespan of voice prostheses. 

Viktorija Makarovaite - Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Education:

 

  • 2006-2010, Lewis University, BSc (Hons) Biology (Biochemistry (minor)

  • 2010-2012, Rush University, MSc Medical Laboratory Science (previously known as Medical Technology)

  • 2014-2015, Manchester University, MSc (Distinction) Medical Mycology

  • 2015- 2019, University of Kent, PhD

  • 2020- Present - PDRA funded by the National Biofilm Innovation Council

 

Research Project

We are trying to develop a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) biosensor which will be able to sense Candida spp. biofilm growth on voice prostheses.  Ultimately, the goal is to make the RFID biosensor compatible with mobile devices, which has already been done to an extent (in a none-fungal or bacterial capacity) at the University of Kent. It would allow the patients to receive a mobile updates on the “health” of their voice prostheses and warn them (and their physicians) of biofilm growth once it occurs. This research can help change the face of medical treatments because of its overlapping capability with other medical devices such as incorporation in neonatal catheter lines. Also, we are trying to develop anti-fungal polymers to replace medical silicone or to be used as an extra coating in the prevention of fungal growth on medical devices. 

Lizzie Edrich - GCRF PhD Student

Improving the treatment of life threatening fungal infections in the African AIDS population

UK Collaboators - Prof. Robin May (University of Birmingham Institute of Microbiology and Infection) and Prof. Tihana Bicanic (St. Georges University of London Institute of Infection and Immunity )

ODA Collaborator - Dr. Sayoki Godfrey Mfinanga (Muhimbili Research Centre, Tanzania)

 

Project aims

Current estimates place life threatening yeast infections within severely immune compromised patients at more than 1,000,000 per year worldwide. This is largely attributable to an increasing immune compromised population within low and middle income countries that support large HIV positive populations. In sub-Saharan African countries, such as Tanzania, such infections are accompanied by an average mortality of 50%, 

Objectives 

1) To identify genetic traits found within pathogenic yeasts that underlie their virulence and antifungal drug resistance using clinical samples from the Tanzanian HIV population.

2) To use an informed and target driven approach to develop both new targets for antifungal application

3) To improve antifungal stewardship and antifungal treatment protocols within the Tanzanian HIV population

Ryan Norman - PhD student

Education

 

  • 2008-2011, Canterbury Christ Church University, BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

  • 2016-2017, University of Kent, MSc Infectious Diseases

  • 2017-present, University of Kent, PhD 

 

Research Project

 

Tracheotomy tubing is a vital medical device which provides free airflow to the lungs in patients who cannot breathe for themselves normally. When these tubes are within a patient, organisms can grow on them in a biofilm, potentially activating as a source of infection and sometimes necessitating the replacement of the device. Previous research has shown that in practice many of these biofilms are comprised of multiple organisms, most notably the fungus Candida albicans, and the bacteria species Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

I am investigating tracheotomy tubing from local patients in an effort to work out exactly which species are present, and hopefully determine the order of colonisation for these organisms. This could potentially lead to useful strategies for preventing their growth. 

 

I will also be carrying on some work from other members of the lab, investigating if the Alternative Oxidase present in Candida plays a role in biofilm formation and the Pseudomonas - Candida interaction (as Pseudomonas can produce pyocynin which can inhibit AOX in Candida). There are other candidates for investigation with the relationship of mixed biofilms - for example, the potential role of Nitric Oxide (NO).

Kevin Doyle - PhD student

Education

  • 2012, University of Kent, BSc Biology.

  • 2015, University of Kent, MRes Cell biology and Ageing

  • 2017-present, PhD student, University of Kent

 

Research Project

 

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease characterised by progressive degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Mutations in the gene SOD1 are associated with 20% of familial ALS (fALS) cases. Aggregation of mutated, unstable Sod1 is thought to give rise to fALS through a toxic gain-of function. Recently, it has been shown that it is not just the insoluble aggregates of mutant/misfolded Sod1, but actually soluble mutant Sod1 that are damaging a range of cellular processes. Despite significant research efforts, there is still no effective therapy for ALS, indicating that there is still a lot to learn.

 

In a recently developed Yeast model of ALS, it was shown that ALS-linked SOD1 mutations leads to metabolic dysfunction and promotes senescence in the cell. Mutant Sod1 protein was shown to prevent acidification of the vacuole. The yeast vacuole is akin to the mammalian lysosome in that it plays a role in autophagy, metal ion homeostasis, cytosolic pH and other key metabolic processes. My project will aim to investigate the mechanism in which mutant/ misfolded Sod1 proteins disrupt metabolic processes in yeast, worm and human cell models.

Jack Davis - MicroH PhD Student

Education

  • 2013-2016- University of Kent, BSc Biochemistry

  • 2017- University of Kent, MRes Cell Biology

  • 2018 - Present PhD MicroH "microbiomes in human health" student

 

Research Project

 

C. albicans biofilm formation on tracheostomy tubing 

My project is a collaborative effort between the LNS (luxembourg), school of Biosciences at Kent and the East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) to understand how biofilms form on tracheostomy tubing and to develop novel approaches to their prevention. I am using next generation sequencing of clinical isolates to investigate the microbial composition of biofilms formed on tracheostomy tubes. In addition I am using and CrispR and to investigate the role of fatty acid synthesis in C. albicans morphogenesis and biofilm formation.

Elliot Piper-Brown - PhD student

Education

 

  • 2011-2014, University of Kent, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science

  • 2014-2015, MSc Cell Biology

  • 2015-present, PhD student

 

Research Project

 

Ras proteins are small GTPases that function as regulatory switches linking external environmental stimuli with intracellular effectors to control cell growth and proliferation. Mutations that lead to the constitutive activation of Ras proteins are associated with the development of several human cancers. The localisation of Ras is crucial for its function and this is controlled by post-translational modifications. The genes encoding Ras proteins are highly conserved and yeast serves as a useful model to study the control of localisation and activation. We have identified that the phosphorylation of Serine225 plays an important role in the localisation and function of Ras2p in S. cerevisiae. Modification of this residue leads to changes in Ras localisation and controls a switch that drives cells towards a senescence phenotype via a previously unidentified cAMP/PKA signalling pathway. The Serine225 motif appears to be present within the human oncogene N-Ras, which may be suggestive of a conserved regulatory role for this phosphorylation event.

Andrew Currie - MSc (Res) student

Research Project

The potential of respiration inhibition as a tool to combat drug resistance in Candida glabrata

Candida glabrata is the second most common cause of life threatening yeast infections in immune compromised patients. C. glabrata isolates exhibit an intrinsic resistance to common antifungals and resistance is increasing. This makes this organism a challenge and a continued threat to human health. We have been exploring the possibility that the respiratory chain may be an effective novel target for this yeast.

Nathan Dennis (MRes student)

Research Project 

Investigating the role of mitochondria in regulating cell health and ageing 


Yeast can be used as an effective cell based system to study the basis of ageing. This project will investigate how mitochondria are used as sensors of metabolic fitness in cells and how this fascinating organelle controls cell fate during the ageing process. The project will build on our recent and published data that place mitochondria at the heart of processes such as autophagy, lipid metabolism and reactive oxygen species production, all of which are essential for cell health and survival. 

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