We interviewed Ángel Medina, who has a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Valencia and is currently a Senior Lecturer and researcher in the Applied Mycology Group at Cranfield University (UK) about the interesting field mycotoxigenic fungi ecophysiology.
His studies focus on the impact of environmental stress on the development of fungi, the mechanisms involved in their ecophysiological tolerance and the molecular basis of the production of secondary metabolites, especially mycotoxins and other relevant metabolites with industrial applications.
YOU HAVE A PHD IN MICROBIOLOGY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF VALENCIA AND ARE CURRENTLY CARRYING OUT YOUR RESEARCH WITHIN THE APPLIED MYCOLOGY RESEARCH GROUP AT CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY. WHAT LED YOU TO TAKE AN INTEREST IN THIS FIELD OF RESEARCH?
I did my PhD in Valencia under the direction of Prof. Misericordia Jimenez. At that moment, the presence of ochratoxin A in wine and beer was known but the responsible fungi were unclear.
Thus, most of my PhD was about finding out about fungi that produce mycotoxins in grapes or barley.
However, I found Prof Naresh Magan’s publications (Cranfield University) very interesting, who had demonstrated that it doesn’t matter what a fungus can do, it’s more about controlling the environment it is living in.
After thousands of plates of fungi and characterisation of fungi using different techniques, the concept of “fungal ecology” became very appealing to me.
I applied for a stay at Cranfield in my last year of PhD and that was it… I knew from early days that I wanted to come back. And here I am.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE MAIN LINES OF RESEARCH OR THE MOST INTERESTING ONES YOU ARE CARRYING OUT?
One of the most interesting things about working at Cranfield is that I work directly, or I am involved, in many different projects on different subjects. We look at benefits and hazards.
From all this I would say that in the last 5 years my research has focused in:
- ⇰ Ecophysiology of fungal species, mainly mycotoxin producing ones, and the effects that climate change forecasted environmental factors may have on mycotoxigenic fungi
- ⇰ High-throughput techniques to speed up ecophysiological studies
- ⇰ Development of early ways to detect fungi or fungal activity.
YOU HAVE FOCUSED ON THE ECOPHYSIOLOGY OF MYCOTOXIGENIC FUNGI. WHAT DOES THIS CONCEPT INVOLVE AND WHAT INFORMATION DOES IT PROVIDE US WITH?
For me, ecophysiology is a paramount aspect when it comes to mycotoxigenic fungi. The first rule when you want to win a “war” is to know your enemy.
⇰ This is what understanding the ecophysiology of a fungus resembles to.
⇰ You know under which conditions they will grow or not, if they will produce toxins or not, if they will reproduce or not…
WHICH ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS THAT MOST INFLUENCE THE DEVELOPMENT OF MYCOTOXIGENIC FUNGI AND MYCOTOXIN PRODUCTION?
Maybe I am a bit biased!! But so far, the ones I have found to have the most effect are water activity and temperature.
At the moment, we are carrying out a lot of research with increased levels of CO2 as we believe that it could be very important in terms of climate change.