Jared Balaich (ScM student, MMI)
I entered the Dinglasan lab with a background in microbial genetics and an interest in working with insects. During the course of my masters I have become increasingly interested in vector biology and medical entomology. I am currently interested in researching how vector species maintain homeostasis during pathogen development and how upsetting this balance could be used to selectively eliminate competent vectors. Most of the earth’s population is at risk for vector borne diseases but the poorest and most destitute people are often at the highest risk for contracting these debilitating diseases.
The deadliest vector borne disease, malaria, is caused by Plasmodium species and is vectored by anopheline mosquitoes. Gametocytes are the transmissible stages of the malaria parasite and enter the mosquito while taking a bloodmeal from an infected host. These gametocytes then mate and develop into an ookinete which invades the mosquito midgut epithelium where the parasite will form sporozoites within an oocyst. These sporozoites will later travel to the salivary glands, resulting in an infectious mosquito. Understanding how the host and parasite interact during maturation within the mosquito will most certainly provide novel interventions to help stop the spread of this deadly parasite.
My master’s thesis work in the Dinglasan lab is to evaluate the transmission blocking potential of a compound derived from the aster Parthenium hysterophorus. This project is in collaboration with Woody Foster’s lab at Ohio State University who first became interested in the plant because of its strong propensity to attract the principle malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae, for sugar feeding. The plant derived compound has shown a strong ability to inhibit development of the P. falciparum parasite both in vitro and within the vector. We are currently evaluating which Plasmodium developmental stage of it is effective against. I am also involved in other projects in the lab including the continuing research on the development of a next generation APN1 transmission blocking vaccine.