College of Science; Research

EPIC scientist receives $369K grant to study parasite that causes African sleeping sickness


Meredith Morris research lab
Meredith Morris’ research lab includes (from left) Christina Wilkinson, Morris, Emily Knight and Sabrina Pizarro.

CLEMSON, S.C. – Meredith Morris, a faculty member in the Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center, has received a $369K grant from the National Institutes of Health to further our understanding of African sleeping sickness, a widespread parasitic disease that is often fatal if left untreated.

Morris is focusing on African trypanosomes, which are a protozoan parasite that cause African sleeping sickness in humans. The parasite alternates between its carrier, the tsetse fly, and its mammalian host.

Morris explained that glycosomes are found only in parasites. She said that her lab’s work is “identifying basic cellular processes that the parasite uses to live, and to identify ways in which its cellular machinery is different from ours.”

The grant will provide funding for Morris’ research into how glycosomes are formed and their function throughout the parasite’s lifecycle.

“The way I describe this is that when people usually think of these parasites, they think of them as having these little polka-dots inside them and they’re all red, and they’re all the same,” said Morris, an associate professor in the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry. “These are glycosomes, and what we’re realizing is that they’re not all the same. What we now know is that if you look at a parasite, instead of having all these red polka-dots, you have some red polka-dots, some blue polka-dots, some green polka-dots, and each of those compartments has a different composition and maybe a different function.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out how the cell sets up that landscape and how it changes the landscape throughout its life cycle,” she said.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under Award Number 1R56AI143687-01A1. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The $369,072 grant is a one-year R56 grant that can be transitioned into a five-year R01 grant.

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