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Meet CUNY Undergraduate Researchers – Alexandra (Sasha) Filonenko

September 12, 2011

The application for Als5pWT peptide and amyloid-binding dyes in the identification of yeast cells in human tissues

Appropriately, as a rising senior in the nursing department at Kingsborough Community College, Alexandra (Sasha) Filonenko has a passion for scientific research that has a practical application and can improve human lives. In Dr. Peter Lipke’s lab in the biology department at Brooklyn College she was able to work on a project with real world implications, particularly for people with diseases that affect the immune system.

Candida albicans is a form of yeast that can cause oral and genital infections. These systemic fungal infections significantly contribute to the rates of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients. The timely detection and treatment of yeast infections can significantly improve the outcome for these patients. In her experiments Sasha tested whether she could detect C. albicans in human hosts using a peptide from a cell wall protein called an adhesin. The adhesin forms amyloids; amyloids are ordered aggregates of proteins found in many different pathological states, including Alzheimer’s disease. In C. albicans, the amyloids act to ensure that the yeast stick together to form biofilms.

As a nursing student Sasha has had hands-on experience with yeast and fungal infections. It was exciting for her to study the science behind these conditions. She found that her nursing experiences provided her with insight into the research questions being asked, and that the research added a new level of depth and understanding to her nursing education.