His research focuses on insect diuresismore specifically, the genes and peptides that control how the kissing bug eliminates excess fluid in its gut after it gorges on blood. For the insect, the real prize in its meal is the red blood cells, while the water and salt is "excess baggage". After they feed, the bugs are bloated and sluggish, and must jettison the waste so they can make their escape.
Here's how it happens: when the kissing bug finds a snoozing victim and feeds, its levels of serotonin and diuretic hormones rise sharply, targeting the insect's midgut and Malpighian tubules (the equivalent of kidneys), and triggering the release of waste. About four hours later, a peptide named CAP2b is released in the insect's gut, abolishing the effect of the diuretic hormones.
Paluzzi has identified two genes (RhoprCAPA-alpha and RhoprCAPA-beta) that carry the chemical recipe for the peptides that stop diuresis. With that information, he hopes to create a peptide "agonist"something that would enhance the activity of the CAP2B peptide and prevent the insect from leaving waste (and the parasite) on the wound. In theory, says Paluzzi, this might be an insecticide-like room spray or topical lotion that is biologically stable and has no effect on humans or other insects. Paluzzi is collaborating with a structural biochemist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Texas, with the ultimate goal of creating a pest control solution, but he cautions that a market-ready product is many years away.
|Contact: Nicolle Wahl|
University of Toronto