A fascinating feature of free-living nematodes is their ability to arrest or resume their development according to environmental cues. Parasitic nematodes are likely to similarly respond to their environment-the host-as they have a common ancestry with free-living nematodes. A potent variation of their environment is certainly the immune reaction they elicit in their host. Data is accumulating that parasites can not only thrive in immuno competent hosts, but also adapt their development accordingly.
A similar correlation between host cytokine responses and parasite development had been observed for filarial nematodes. To explore both the mechanisms and evolutionary implications of these host-parasite interactions, I intend to utilise molecular tools for an objective measurement of changes in parasite development in order to (i) identify host immune components perceived as developmental cues by filarial parasites and (ii) determine whether changes in development provide a fitness advantage to the parasite.
To achieve these aims, I will need to acquire new interdisciplinary skills in molecular biology, bioinformatics and theoretical evolutionary biology only all at hand in the host organisation to add to my knowledge of immunology and filaria morphology. I see t his as the basis for a scientific career that has both direct biomedical relevance and exciting intellectual challenges around yet unexplored aspects of filariasis that I hope to expand to other parasitic diseases.
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