Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

News

Breadcrumb Breadcrumb

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Polymer with antifungal properties discovered at the Jagiellonian University

Polymer with antifungal properties discovered at the Jagiellonian University

JU scientists have discovered a synthetic polymer characterised by strong antifungal properties and low toxicity. The importance of the newly developed technology is underlined by its promising physical and chemical properties and the fact there are few substances used in mycosis treatment and prevention currently available on the market.

 

During the last few years, properties of various synthetic polymers have been studied for potential use in cosmetic industry and medicine by the interdisciplinary team of Dr Magdalena Skóra from the JU Department of Infection Control and Mycology at the JU MC Faculty of Medicine and Dr Kamil Kamiński from the Department of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at the JU Faculty of Chemistry. Knowing that the range of substances used in mycosis treatment available on cosmetic and pharmaceutical market is very limited, the researchers were especially interested in discovering new substances that could be applied in this specific area.

‘During our several-year-long studies on polymers, we have created various macromolecules, both synthetic ones and derived from natural polymers. Some of them display the expected antifungal properties, but one synthetic polymer has proved to be an especially promising candidate to be applied in preparations preventing or inhibiting fungal growth’, says Dr Kamil Kamiński.  

A polymer with desired properties

The discovered polymer displays promising physical and chemical properties from the perspective of cosmetic and pharmaceutical branch. It is highly soluble in water and alcohols (methanol and ethanol as well as propanol and isopropanol), which makes it suitable for use in formulations or for superficial application on skin or nails. Besides, it is relatively easy and cheap to synthesise, and the compounds needed to produce it are widely available.

‘The chemical compound we are studying is a cationic polymer, it has a positive charge. This feature enables interaction of a polymer with negatively charged biological membranes of living organisms. This is probably one of the factors contributing to its effectiveness. We think that the polymer interacts with fungal cells, preventing their division or formation of hyphae. During laboratory studies we observed inhibition of fungal growth in the presence of the polymer. At the same time, our cell line research confirmed that the polymer shows low toxicity to mammalian cells. Thus, it has a highly selective activity, specifically targeting fungi’, explains Dr Magdalena Skóra.

In vitro studies have confirmed that the polymer has an impact on pathogens causing skin and nail infections: fungi of Trichophyton and Scopulariopsis brevicaulis genera, as well as Fusarium genus, responsible not only for human and animal mycoses, but also plant diseases. The JU researchers claim that the polymer they focus on is less toxic compared to antifungal substances currently used in mycoses treatment: ciclopirox and terbinafine. ‘The low toxicity to mammalian cells is not the only advantage of this polymer. We have also discovered that it is more effective in vitro than some other currently used medicinal substances, as its antifungal effect can be observed at several times lower concentrations’, argues Dr Magdalena Skóra.  

‘We know that the issues of the substance’s toxicity and its activity towards the etiological factor of an infection are of key importance to producers of medications and cosmetics, which is why we are still conducting intense studies on the polymer, which would allow us to even better understand its impact on fungi and cells of other living organisms. We would like to have as complete data as possible about the effectiveness of the polymer in various concentrations as well as its antimicrobial spectrum and link these information to the observed toxicity levels’,  adds the researcher.

On the way to the market

At the current stage, the researchers would like to focus on the commercialisation of their discovery. Besides, further studies into the substance’s toxicity and optimalisation of its concentration in relation to different species of pathogenic fungi are carried out as part of the project funded by the National Science Centre.

The invention is protected by a patent, which makes it possible to talk about its commercialisation with potential investors and cosmetic industry. The JU Centre of Technology Transfer CITTRU is responsible for this task.

‘The process of introducing new cosmetic products to the market is much shorter in the case of medications. It also requires less financial input from the investor, which translates into lower risk. Hence, we put greater focus on using the polymer as an ingredient of nail and skin care products. At the same time, we are not ruling out collaboration with investors who would like to use the polymer  as a medication after further tests are completed. It is also possible to apply the substance in agriculture as a preventive antifungal substance in plant cultivation. As the polymer can be relatively cheaply synthesised, its future use in this sector is also possible’, says Dr Gabriela Konopka Cupiał, Director of the JU Centre for Technology Transfer CITTRU.

The scientists stress that possible preparations developed on the basis of the polymer should only be applied superficially and locally. Due to the size of molecules, the substance is not intended for systemic use.

Dr Magdalena Skóra from the JU MC Chair in Microbiology

Recommended
JU researcher and students awarded with Fulbright scholarships

JU researcher and students awarded with Fulbright scholarships

Neural networks and AI to accelerate disease diagnostics

Neural networks and AI to accelerate disease diagnostics

JU chosen by Polish Returns NAWA grant recipient

JU chosen by Polish Returns NAWA grant recipient

JU scientists describe a degradable polymer that inactivates Zika virus

JU scientists describe a degradable polymer that inactivates Zika virus