That's the idea behind a new study led by Michael Povelones of Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine and Megan L. Povelones of Penn State Brandywine. Using a non-disease-causing kinetoplastid species called Crithidia fasciculata, this husband-wife duo and their research team identified a number of genes involved in adherence in its mosquito host.
"The parasite has to hold on so it won't pass right through," says Michael Povelones, an assistant professor of pathobiology at Penn Vet. "It needs to get retained in the gut in order to multiply and eventually get transmitted. These mechanisms of adherence seem to be [shared] across kinetoplastid species, so the hope is that our insights about Crithidia will tell us something about adherence in the medically relevant species."
Study - Journal - PLOS - Neglected - Tropical
The study appears in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Scientists had long turned to Crithidia fasciculata as a biochemical model to understand features of parasitic disease, as it is easily grown in the lab. Megan Povelones, whose specialty is African trypanosomiasis, was familiar with it from her doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University, and the subject came up in conversations with her spouse.
Shop - Home - Michael - Povelones - Research
"We talk shop at home sometimes," says Michael Povelones, whose own research has focused on ways to harness the power of the mosquito's own immune defenses to stop them from transmitting disease. "I was intrigued by the fact that Crithidia infects mosquitoes but isn't a human or animal pathogen, that little was known about its life cycle, and that there had been some electron microscope studies done that show the parasite is actually adhering to the mosquito gut with a very specific type of structure that people had described as a hemidesmosome. I felt like there was some fascinating cell biology there to explore."
Together they set out to investigate what happens to enable the parasite to "hold on"...
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