Athens, Ga. Black flies drink blood and spread disease such as river blindnesscreating misery with their presence. A University of Georgia study, however, proves that the pesky insects can be useful.
Don Champagne, an entomology professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, discovered a way to use the black fly's blood-sucking tactics for medical advancement. The results of his research were published in the journal PLoS One.
"In order to feed on blood, these insects have to contend with our natural defense agents against blood losslike clotting," he said. "Many insects use salivary injections packed with proteins to inhibit the enzymes in our bodies from reacting the way they normally would to injury."
In order for insects to earn a blood meal, they have to override the human body's battery of defenses. Most of these insects have anticoagulants to fight off clotting, inhibitors to stop clumping of platelets and vasodilators to speed up blood flow at the bite site.
"As it turns out, there are also a lot of things in saliva that modulate the immune response like inflammatory responses and downstream immune responses," he said.
A few years ago, Champagne worked on a study transcribing the messenger RNA that codes for proteins found in the salivary secretions of the black fly. He found two proteins that looked like they could hinder clotting. Champagne determined that one of these inhibits the clotting cascade by blocking factor Xa. Clotting factors exist in the blood in an inactive state, waiting to be called into action. Because these factors work like dominos, if factor X fails to be turned on (converted to Xa) the rest of the responses stay inactivate.
"We were able to show that the salivary protein targets Xa and is a good inhibitor of clotting," he said about his recent research. "But, it is an even better inhibitor of some enzymes involved in very early immune
|Contact: Don Champagne|
University of Georgia