University of Washington professor receives Fulbright to study how to combat the dangerous food-borne pathogen | News



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May 13, 2020

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Jason Gigley, associate professor of molecular biology at the University of Washington, received a Fulbright scholarship to study how nutritional immunity and disease tolerance can be used to combat Toxoplasma gondii, a dangerous food pathogen that can kill people with immune deficiencies and developing fetuses. (Photo by Steve Miller)

Jason Gigley, associate professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming, received a Fulbright scholarship to study how nutritional immunity and disease tolerance can be used to combat Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a dangerous foodborne pathogen that can kill people with immune deficiencies as well as developing fetuses.

T. gondii it is a major health problem for people whose immune systems are weakened, as well as for developing fetuses; and as a cause of depression and neurocognitive changes. Infection with this parasite can give rise to different pathologies that can cause tissue damage in the stomach, retinas and brain.

“My goal as a Fulbright Scholar will be to test how nutritional immunity and disease tolerance work to promote immunity and reduce pathology during infection with Toxoplasma gondii“Gigley says.” To date, there are no fully effective vaccines or therapies that can completely eliminate this infection that is present in at least 30 percent of the world’s human population. “

For his project, titled “Understanding How Available Host Iron Impacts Nutritional Immunity and Disease Tolerance During Toxoplasma gondii Infection ”, Gigley will focus on discovering new vaccine therapies or approaches to meet this critical need.

The objectives of the project are:

– Investigate how nutritional immunity impacts T. gondii infection. Movement of available iron from one place to another in the body can limit iron access to pathogens to control the infection called nutritional immunity.

“Our research will investigate how nutritional immunity, a process by which a host prevents a pathogen from obtaining iron, works in the context of an intracellular parasitic infection called Toxoplasma gondii“Gigley explains.” We can increase or decrease iron levels in our infection model and see how this affects the infection and the immune response. “

– Dissect how disease tolerance impacts immunity to T. gondii infection. Disease tolerance counteracts immune responses by protecting tissues to prevent immune pathology as the immune system works to eliminate pathogens and diseased tissues.

Gigley says he will investigate how moving iron in the host affects the level of tissue damage caused by the infection to understand how to help people survive when infected with this parasite.

“There is a critical need to find new and additional therapeutic targets to treat this infection,” says Gigley. “Our proposed research on nutritional immunity and disease tolerance could lead to the development of a desperately needed cure.”

He says the research will be carried out in Portugal because one of his collaborators, Miguel Soares, is a cell biologist and one of the world leaders in the study of nutritional immunity and disease tolerance. Gigley says that he and Soares will publish their work as collaborative primary research articles in high-level journals. He adds that they will also present the results of their research at international and national meetings.

“The Fulbright is a great honor, and I am truly amazed to have received this scholarship,” adds Gigley. “Receiving this award means a lot to me as a researcher and professor because it will allow me to visit and learn from one of the world’s leading experts on a cutting-edge research area. This award will allow me to bring these new ideas and opportunities to the University of Wyoming for my own lab and the students I teach. ”

Gigley has been a member of the UW faculty since 2012. He received a BA in freshwater and marine biology from the University of New Hampshire; his doctorate in microbiology and immunology from Dartmouth School of Medicine; and completed his postdoctoral fellowship work at the George Washington University Medical Center in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine.

Gigley is among the more than 800 US citizens selected by the US Department of State. USA And the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to teach, conduct research, or provide overseas experience for the 2020-21 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Program. Scholar. Recipients of the Fulbright Awards are selected based on their academic and professional achievements, as well as their proven record of service and leadership in their respective fields.

The Fulbright Program is the primary international educational exchange program of the US government. USA And it is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late American Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 390,000 students, academics, teachers, artists, and professionals from all backgrounds and fields with the opportunity to study , teach and conduct research; Exchange ideas; and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.