Understanding the Biology in a Human Pathogen through Genetic Modification and Manipulation

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Aqsa Raja
Miguel Chiurillo


Record ID: 162

Student Major: Biological Sciences

Project Advisor: Miguel Chiurillo

Abstract: Chagas disease affects up to 8 million people, primarily in the Latin Americas. It is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi), a microscopic parasite that can be transmitted to mammals through an insect, popularly known as “kissing bug”. Currently, there is limited treatment available for Chagas disease. Understanding the biology of this parasite may help unveil potential drug targets and minimize the risk of Chagas disease. We studied a specific protein, Flagellar membrane protein 6 (FLAM6), which is predicted to play a significant role in the viability of the parasite. We are interested in knowing where in the cell this protein is localized as well as its importance in the T. cruzi life cycle. To address these aims, we used an advanced gene editing technique, commonly referred to as CRISPR, to insert and attach a “tag” to the FLAM6 gene. The tagged protein was visualized under a special microscope showing that FLAM6 is specifically localized to the parasite flagellum, which is a structure related with the movement and the infectivity capacity of this organism. Using CRISPR, we tried to eliminate or “knock out” the two copies of the gene that encodes for FLAM6 protein. However, the gene was only partially knocked out. Currently, we are using these partially KO cells to obtain a complete knockout. Once obtained, the KO cells will be used to study whether FLAM6 could be an alternative target for new drugs to treat Chagas disease. 

Article Details

Category: Medical Frontiers
Author Biography

Aqsa Raja

Major: Biological Sciences