These enzymes are able to kill bacteria, and they help drive the inflammatory response.
"We were expecting these to be anticoagulants, that wasn't a surprise," he said. "But, we were surprised to learn that the protein affected all of these other responses."
This discovery made the protein attractive as a potential drug target, possibly one to treat patients recovering from heart attacks.
"Inflammation is a major source of tissue damage associated with vascular injuries," he said. "The idea of a single factor that could both inhibit clotting and inhibit damaging inflammation responses at the same time is pretty novel and interesting."
Studying black flies is easier at UGA than anywhere else, because UGA has the only black fly colony in the world. The flies in the lab aren't the same ones who transmit the debilitating river blindness disease, but the unique resource enables important research about the transmission of river blindness.
"We are not rearing black fly vectors; they are not being infected with the parasite that causes river blindness; and there is no risk to the public," he said.
What they are doing is learning more about how the disease is transmitted and how to possibly stop it.
"A lot of blood feeders also vector diseases," Champagne said. "When they are playing all of these tricks on the host in order for them to get a good blood meal, they change the conditions at the point where these pathogens go into the skin. Those changes often favor the pathogen. In an environment where normal wounding responses and defenses are inhibited, the pathogen can go in and say 'oh, look at thatthe door is wide open."
Black flies vector river blindness while drinking their blood meal. A threat in sub-Saharan Africa, river blindness is a parasitic disease caused by a nematode infection. It's not caused by nematodes themselves. A symbiont that the
|Contact: Don Champagne|
University of Georgia