Nature has a great deal to offer when it comes to novel biomaterials. An especially remarkable material made by many pathogens is the cyst wall biopolymer, a natural stealth biomaterial. Many protozoan pathogens encyst to form a resilient and infectious cyst or spore, including Giardia, Entamoeba, Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium, Acanthamoeba, Microsporidia and Cyclospora. A mixture of carbohydrate and protein polymers, the cyst or oocyst wall protects the parasite during its passage between hosts, resisting bacterial degradation, shielding the cell from the hydrolytic environment of an animal’s digestive tract, and evading host immunity prior to excystation. Our lab is studying these biopolymers with an eye for designing materials based on their unique properties and composition.
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