Trypanosomes are parasitic organisms responsible for global disease, including Chagas Disease and African Sleeping Sickness/Trypanosomiasis. These ancient single-celled eukaryotes are brimming with unusual biochemical features. Among these, our lab is our most interested in studying proteins that are either 1) unique to the parasite or 2) are found in other organisms, but whose function is not understood in the parasite. Therapeutics to treat the diseases caused by these parasites are lacking. The potential for downstream therapeutic application is a requisite for all projects in the lab.
Undergraduates and graduate students in the lab ask such questions as, “What happens if we remove a particular protein from parasites in culture? What can we learn about that protein’s function?” or “What type of enzymatic activity does this particular protein have? What does this activity tell us about the protein’s role in the parasite?” We also ask fundamental questions about protein structure and function, such as “Can we alter protein’s specificity for the small molecules required for activity by making changes to the protein’s amino acid composition?”
Students in the lab will have the opportunity to learn protein purification, enzyme characterization, basic molecular biology techniques, trypanosome cell culture, and RNA interference work in Trypanosoma brucei, among other techniques. There are openings in the lab. Please contact Dr. Palenchar if you are interested in learning more.