The Clinical-Translational Seminar Series -Dr. Vernon Carruthers

(Above) Dr. Carruthers addressing the CRND CTSS audience. (Photo: C Stackowicz, 2012)

November 16, 2012. CRND's Director, Kasturi Haldar introduced Dr. Vernon Carruthers as "someone who knows more about the biology of cells and parasitic invasion than anyone I can think of." High praise considering that Drs. Carruthers and Haldar both share decades long careers investigating the mechanisms of parasitical infections. Carruthers and Haldar also enjoy alumnus status from The Rockefellar University, where they completed their postdoctoral work in Dr. George A.M. Cross's Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology. Carruthers was there in the early 1990's and Haldar completed in the late 1980s. Since then, each has pursued the study of the pathogenesis of a disease caused by a parasite. Carruther's identifies his protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii as "a cousin of the malaria parasite", which has been the focus of Haldar's investigations for many years. Both parasites are responsible for billions of infections annually, although Toxoplasma gondii creates a serious disease condition in only tiny percent of the 2 billion people who contract the infection. Generally, adults with healthy immune status manage to keep the parasite in an encysted state in the body and most of the people who become seriously ill from Toxoplasma gondii are infants or people who are immunocompromised due to another condition (e.g., HIV, organ transplant recipients, or chemotherapy patients).

Dr. Carruthers is currently a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School where his lab is focused on the study of Toxoplasma gondii as a "model" pathogen. A model pathogen is an organism that is extensively researched with the hope that discoveries about its biological functioning may also be extrapolated to understand the workings of similar organisms. According to Carruthers, the Toxoplasma gondii model works as a model for intracellular paracitism "because of its genetic and biochemical tractability, well defined cellular structure, and the availability of excellent rodent models of disease" (Carruthers Lab page).

Carruther's seminar was entitled, "Infection strategies of the highly successful neurotrophic parasite Toxoplasma gondii."

(Above, from the left) Jerome Fru Cho, Rachel Schluttenhofer, Victoria Smith, Jennifer Zupkosky, Emily Williams, George Kennedy, Marika Kuspa, Jeffrey Kukewich, Jeannie Hoang, Professor Vern Carruthers.

 

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