In the Etheridge Lab we are interested in host-pathogen interactions with an emphasis on identifying and characterizing proteins that parasites inject into our cells to directly manipulate and take over our cellular machinery. Our research efforts are focused primarily on two different obligate intracellular protozoan parasites; the highly successful apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii and the deadly kinetoplastid Trypanosoma cruzi.
These protozoan parasites can be perceived as simple single celled creatures that lack a depth worthy of intense research and study. However, beneath this seemingly one-dimensional parasite is an incredibly evolved complexity. Our own evolutionary history is inextricably linked with our parasite competitors as the ancient struggle for survival between host and parasite has generated much of the incredible complexity of form and function we see today.
As one begins studying parasites it becomes apparent that they “know” how our cells work, at the molecular level, far better than we do. Through millions of years of co-evolution our parasites have crafted highly precise molecular tools that can manipulate us at the most fundamental of levels. Through each advance we make in understanding how parasites take control of our cells we also, in turn, gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our own biology and this gained knowledge will hopefully lead to new methods of combating these deadly infectious diseases.