CROSS-KINGDOM IMMUNE PATHWAYS IN TICKS
This NIH-supported grant is an interdisciplinary, collaborative effort among four institutions across the United States, under the leadership of the Pal lab. Our group specifically investigates cross-kingdom signaling pathways that are relevant to the transmission and persistence of Lyme disease.
TICK-BORNE DISEASES IN A HUMAN MODEL
We are taking a groundbreaking interdisciplinary approach to Lyme disease with this DoD-funded project. In a collaboration with USUHS and Johns Hopkins University, we will use 3D models of human blood vessels to study the dissemination of the pathogen throughout the human body.
NOVEL VACCINE USING THE RABIES VIRUS PLATFORM
Under the support of NIH, we will explore the potential of tick and bacterial proteins to protect against Lyme disease. With our partners at TJU, we will incorporate essential target proteins into the widely-used rabies virus system, in an effort to develop safe and effective preventive strategies.
NOVEL THERAPEUTICS FOR LYME DISEASE
As part of our ongoing efforts and collaborations with our partners at NCATS, we are pursuing the development of new and improved antimicrobials against Lyme disease pathogens, via the targeting of unique and essential protein-protein interactions that the pathogen employs for infectivity and persistence in mammalian hosts. This involves the use of cutting-edge quantitative high-throughput drug discovery platforms.
DEVELOPMENT OF TICK IMMUNITY IN MAMMALIAN HOSTS
In our ongoing attempts to develop a Lyme disease vaccine, we are pursuing the concept of "acquired tick immunity". Some rodents, such as guinea pigs, have displayed signs of tick resistance after multiple encounters. In such cases, ticks have been noted to feed less and drop off sooner. We hope to better understand the mechanisms behind this acquired tick immunity, as it could help to pinpoint vaccine targets. Currently, with the support of extramurally-funded grants and contracts, we are attempting to evaluate the efficacy of select tick antigens (associated either with the genesis of acquired tick immunity, or the support of various aspects of tick physiology, such as blood meal acquisition) as anti-tick vaccinogens.
TICK GENOME & EPIGENETICS
The tick is an ancient and unique arthropod that, despite years of research, remains enigmatic. We hope to enhance our knowledge of its biology by deciphering the genome of the whole Ixodes scapularis tick. We are also interested in the robust epigenetic mechanisms that ticks have evolved, which provide sustainable responses to and buffers against the extreme environmental conditions that ticks persist in, and ultimately impact their biology and vectorial capacity.