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Source: Ruth Welti, 785-532-6241, welti@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Stephanie Jacques, 785-532-0101, sjacques@k-state.edu

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TO FURTHER RESEARCH ON MULTIDRUG RESISTANCE, DOCTORAL STUDENT TRAVELS ACROSS THE WORLD TO PROFILE LIPIDS AT K-STATE

MANHATTAN -- When visiting a new country, lipid profiling is probably not on most people's list of must-see-and-do activities. However, for Ashutosh Singh, a doctoral student from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, it is the main attraction.

Funded by an American Society of Microbiology International Fellowship, Singh came to Kansas State University to conduct research at the Kansas Lipidomics Research Center. The $5,500 fellowship is supporting his housing and travel expenses for three months in Kansas.

"I saw an ad for the fellowship in Microbe, an American Society of Microbiology magazine," Singh said. "It is a really nice fellowship but it is not easy to get. We got rejected once, which is easy to understand since only one fellowship is awarded for Asia. It's a great opportunity."

Singh is using the fellowship to investigate multidrug resistance in a type of pathogenic yeast called Candida albicans, best known for causing thrush in babies and for its deadly infection of immunocompromised patients. Since one of the main functions of lipids, the building blocks of cell membranes, is to send signals to genes and proteins to control development, growth and an organism's response to its environment, it is believed that they may play a role in Candida resistance to drugs.

"A number of drugs have been used to treat this fungus, but excessive use of these medicines has made the fungus resistant," Singh said. "Many combinations of drugs are now unable to treat it, so we are trying to determine what facilitates the resistance. The ultimate goal of my studies here at K-State is just to understand the role lipids play in the resistance mechanism."

Singh's research is one example of international collaborative projects of the Kansas Lipidomics Research Center. Founded in 2003, the center collaborates with scientists across the globe. Singh has access to an array of mass spectrometers, and he says that he is receiving training from some of the world's most knowledgeable scientists in the field of lipids and lipid analysis.

One of those individuals is Ruth Welti, director of the Kansas Lipidomics Research Center and a professor in the Division of Biology at K-State. She wrote a proposal to the American Society of Microbiology that supported Singh's application.

"The Kansas Lipidomics Research Center was founded with three aims: educating students and scientists about lipids and lipid analysis; developing new technology for analysis of lipids and other metabolites; and conducting and supporting research into roles of lipids and other metabolites in biological systems," Welti said. "We are excited that the American Society of Microbiology fellowship has given such a motivated student a chance to advance an ongoing project that could impact human health."