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Nationally Recognized Entomology Researcher Presents “Malaria Mosquito Genomic" (w/photo)

  • Created
    Thursday, April 23 2009
  • Created by
    Jim Nelson/Media Relations - (304) 327-4103

dr_belay__dr_sharakhov(Bluefield)—During a recent presentation to Bluefield State College students and faculty, an internationally recognized leader in “malaria mosquito genomics” discussed research progress in genetically engineering of the mosquito, Anopheles gambiae that transmits malaria. The objective is to make the mosquito “malaria-proof.”  Dr. Igor Sharakhov, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech give details about the history, the scope and geographic “hot spots” for malaria, and on-going research progress in developing genomic-based strategies to combat the disease.

“Malaria kills more than 1.5 million people each year,” he noted.  “It is the single largest cause of death in Africa.  Traditional treatment strategies have met with declining success because of mosquitoes’ ability to adapt to, and resist, pesticides and drugs, he said, and vaccines for malaria haven’t yet been developed.”

“Our research focuses on comparative genomics and molecular genetics of malaria mosquitoes,” he continued.  “By understanding chromosomal inversions, in the mosquito genome, we can examine how such rearrangements can impact the mosquito’s ability to transmit malaria parasites and adapt to diverse environments.  Understanding the biological effects of genome rearrangements can have an impact on public health, for example, by permitting us to target genes affected by these inversions in a way that reduces the mosquito’s ability to transmit malaria parasites.”

Dr. Tesfaye Belay, BSC Associate Professor of Biology, invited Dr. Sharakho to speak at the College.  “It is our hope that Dr. Sharakho’s presentation will encourage our students to become more actively involved in biological and biomedical research,” Dr. Belay explained.  “There are wonderful opportunities available as the research relationship between our institutions continues to mature.”