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Posts Tagged: Shirley Luckhart

Shirley Luckhart: Outstanding Mentor

Shirley Luckhart. (Photo courtesy of the UC Davis Health System)
The honor is so well deserved.

UC Davis molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) and a graduate student advisor with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, has just received a 2012 Outstanding Mentor Award from the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research

Professor Luckhart is an international authority on malaria, but on campus, she's also known as an outstanding educator and mentor. So it was no surprise--except to her--that her 15-member lab got together and nominated her for the coveted award.

In her letter of support, doctoral candidate Anna Drexler described Luckhart as "an exceptional mentor" who "cares deeply about the people she mentors and has regular meeting times scheduled with each individual in the lab and with the lab as a whole. In her weekly lab meetings, she fosters a collaborative environment where people can practice presentation skills, brainstorm new ideas and gain help troubleshooting research problems. Additionally, I have found her door is always open to myself and other students, regardless of her very busy schedule."

In these tough economic times, when funding is so tight it squeaks, Luckhart manages to find funding. As Drexler pointed out: Luckhart "works very hard to secure funding for students that she takes on and has, to date, been successful in this for every student in her lab. She strongly encourages each of her protégés to present independent research at one major research conference per year and provides funding for these events." 

Doctoral candidate Elizabeth Glennon praised "the cohesive and collaborative nature of her lab" and "the quality of training that her students receive."

The Luckhart lab drew national attention when Time magazine featured the lab's role in making a malaria-proof mosquito. Time singled out the malaria-proof mosquito as "the best invention" in the Health and Medicine category of its "50 Best Inventions of 2010."

Frankly, we don't know how Shirley Luckhart can juggle all those balls she's tossed up in the air.  Research, education, public service, advisor to multiple graduate student groups--and mentoring. (Read what the scientists in her lab wrote about her.)

In a world of gems that are few and far between, Shirley Luckhart is a rare treasure. 

Anopheles gambiae, also known as the malaria mosquito.  (Photo by medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, UC Davis associate professor)
Anopheles gambiae, also known as the malaria mosquito. (Photo by medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, UC Davis associate professor)

Anopheles gambiae, also known as the malaria mosquito. (Photo by medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, UC Davis associate professor)

Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM

Honey Bees and Malaria

You don't usually see "honey bees" and "malaria" in the same sentence.

That won't be the case, though, when Joseph DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, comes to the UC Davis campus to lecture on Monday, Jan. 9.

His presentation, "A Seminar in Two Acts: Honey Bees and Malaria,"  is from 10 to 11 a.m. in the main auditorium (Room 2005) of the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility.

The seminar, open to all interested persons, is sponsored by the Biological Networks Focus Group of the Genome Center. Host is Oliver Fiehn, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Genome Center.

DeRisi, a molecular biologist and biochemist, was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant (also known as "the genius award") in 2004. In 2008, DeRisi won the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment. Among his many accomplishments: he designed and programmed a groundbreaking tool for finding (and fighting) viruses -- the ViroChip, a DNA microarray that test for the presence of all known viruses in one step.

The DeRisi lab drew international attention last year with publications in Public Library of Science journals.

Malaria:
Chemical Rescue of Malaria Parasites Lacking an Apicoplast Defines Organelle Function in Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum (published in PLoS Biology, August 2011)

Honey Bees:
Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia (published in PLoS One, June, 2011)

Among those working on the honey bee research and co-authoring the PLoS One paper was insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, a postdoctoral fellow in the Raul Andino lab at UC San Francisco and the recipient of the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellowship in Honey Bee Biology at UC Davis.

Among DeRisi's collaborators  on malaria research is UC Davis molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and an advisor in the Entomology Graduate Program.

DeRisi, who received his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1999 from Stanford University, does amazing work.

He's a genius, to be sure.

Check out these links:
Joseph DeRisi Lab, UC San Francisco
Joe DeRisi: Biochemist (featured in TED ("Technology, Entertainment, Design" is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.)
Conversation with Joe DeRisi (New York Times)
Solving Medical Mysteries (YouTube)
Hunting the Next Killer Virus (YouTube)
Joseph DeRisi: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Joseph DeRisi in Wikipedia

A honey bee heads toward a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee heads toward a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee heads toward a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Anthony Cornel, UC Davis)
The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Anthony Cornel, UC Davis)

The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Anthony Cornel, UC Davis)

Posted on Friday, January 6, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Malaria-Proof Mosquito Takes the Spotlight

shirleyluckhartsmall
Shirley Luckhart, Edwin Lewis, Anna Drexler and Nazzy Pakpour ought to be dancing.

They're probably not, though. They're too busy doing research.

They're the UC Davis scientists who worked on a malaria-proof mosquito that just made Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2010.”

It's listed as No. 1 in Time Magazine’s Health and Medicine Category.

Back pedal to July of 2010.  The collaborative team of UC Davis and University of Arizona researchers published their work on their malaria-proof mosquito in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens (PLOS).

The research drew international attention because globally, malaria infects some 250 million people annually and kills more than a million a year, primarily in Africa.

"A malaria-proof mosquito?" Could it be? Yes!

“The transgenic mosquitoes were developed at the University of Arizona and we performed the malaria parasite infection studies here at UC Davis,” said malaria researcher and professor Shirley Luckhart (above) of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and an advisor in the Entomology Graduate Program.

Among the 11 scientists co-authoring the paper were four UC Davis researchers: Luckhart; professor Edwin Lewis, who has a joint appointment in the Entomology and Nematology departments; Entomology doctoral student Anna Drexler who studies with major professor Luckhart; and postdoctoral scholar Nazzy Pakpour of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

“This is the first time anyone has created a transgenic mosquito line that has two important features for malaria transmission control: (1) reduced lifespan, and (2) complete resistance to infection with the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum,” Luckhart said.

“We know that one mosquito phenotype,” Luckhart said, “might not be enough to block transmission – that is, selection could result in parasites that develop more quickly or are more virulent to overcome one or the other phenotype, but the chance that parasites could evolve to evade both would be very small. We’re working on the mechanism of anti-parasite resistance right now and we have some tantalizing results that suggest that the effect on lifespan and immunity are linked through some major metabolic changes in the transgenic mosquitoes.”

As of Jan. 7, their scientific paper, “Activation of Akt Signaling Reduces the Prevalence and Intensity of Malaria Parasite Infection and Lifespan in Anopheles stephensi Mosquitoes, has generated nearly 7000 article views and has drawn extensive news coverage.

In a July 17 news article headlined “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Created,” science writer Eric Bland of ABC News pointed out that scientists had  “engineered a genetic ‘on switch' that permanently activates a malaria-destroying response.”

“If these mosquitoes,” Bland wrote, “are successfully introduced into the wild, they could prevent millions of people from becoming infected with life-threatening Plasmodium -- the parasite that causes malaria.”

Time Magazine reporter Jeffrey Kluger described 2010 as "a bad year to be a mosquito. The world's most annoying insect is responsible for 250 million cases of malaria per year — and 1 million deaths. But scientists...have genetically engineered a mosquito that's immune to the Plasmodium parasite, the malaria-causing agent it transmits with its bite. The next step is to make the new mosquito hardier than the ordinary kind, then release it into the wild (perhaps within 10 years), where it will displace the deadly variety."

Yes, indeed, 2010 was a very bad year to be a skeeter.

And the future for these blood-sucking insects (the females need a blood meal to develop their eggs) promises to be even worse.

UC Davis Team
UC Davis Team

TARGETING MALARIA--This is the UC Davis team that co-authored research (with University of Arizona scientists) that made Time Magazine's "Top 50 Inventions of 2010"--the malaria-proof mosquito. In front, at the microscope, is entomology doctoral student Anna Drexler. In back (from left) are professor Edwin Lewis, postdoctoral scholar Nazzy Pakpour, and professor Shirley Luckhart. In the foreground: anopheline mosquitoes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, January 7, 2011 at 6:44 PM

Tackling Malaria

Those malaria mosquitoes may have met their match--with researchers at the University of California, Davis.

UC Davis entomology doctoral candidate Ashley Horton, recent winner of the 2010 Arthur J. and Dorothy D. Palm Agricultural Scholarship, focuses her research on how mosquitoes transmit malaria.

Horton studies with major professor Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and researches how the immune system of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, affects the transmission of the Plasmodium parasite, the causative agent of malaria.

Malaria kills more than a million people a year, primarily in Africa.

“Ashley’s work that was recently published in Malaria Journal, together with our co-authors and collaborators Dr. Yoosook Lee and Dr. Gregory Lanzaro, is the first to identify mutations in immune signaling genes that exhibit associations with natural infection with Plasmodium falciparum in field-collected Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes in Mali," Luckhart said. "Plasmodium falciparum is the most important human malaria parasite in Africa and this work is necessary as a foundation to assess whether genetic control measures to block transmission of this parasite will be possible in malaria-endemic countries.”

The research, titled "Identification of Three Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in Anopheles gambiae Immune Signaling Genes that are Associated with Natural Plasmodium falciparum Infection," appears in the June 10, 2010 edition of Malaria Journal.

Horton, who received her bachelor's degree in public health studies at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, joined the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Program in 2005. In 2008 she received a William Hazeltine Student Research Fellowship, an award in memory of a noted California entomologist.

The Palm scholarship supplements her fellowship support from a National Institutes of Health T32 training grant that is managed by director Lanzaro and associate director Luckhart.

Arthur Palm, an alumnus of UC Davis, received his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics in 1939. He and his wife established the endowed fund to support undergraduate and graduate students.

The Palm family and others who fund scholarships not only support our university students; they support public health issues.

They, too, are tackling malaria.

Ashley Horton
Ashley Horton

DOCTORAL CANDIDATE Ashley Horton with malaria mosquitoes, Anopheles gambiae. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of malaria mosquito
Close-up of malaria mosquito

CLOSE-UP of blood-feeding malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambaie, These mosquitoes transmit a parasite that kills more than a million people a year, primarily in Africa. (Photo by Anton Cornel, UC Kearney Agricultural Center/UC Davis Department of Entomology)

Posted on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 7:14 PM

Malaria-Proof Mosquito?

annadrexlersmall
A malaria-proof mosquito?

Research news coming out of the University of California, Davis and the University of Arizona labs recently drew international attention; the scientists have genetically engineered mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria parasites.

Now one of the co-authors has received a coveted research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

luckhart
Entomology doctoral student Anna Drexler (top photo)
who studies with noted malaria researcher and major professor Shirley Luckhart (left), has received a NIH research fellowship aimed to promote diversity in health-related research.

Luckhart is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine, and a graduate student advisor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology.

Drexler, who joined the Luckhart lab in January 2008, focuses her research on the roles of the human blood-derived insulin-like growth factor-1 and the role of insulin signaling in the regulation of malaria parasite transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes.

The UC Davis student is a co-first author of a paper on malaria parasites published July 15, 2010 in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens (PLOS). Titled “Activation of Akt Signaling Reduces the Prevalence and Intensity of Malaria Parasite Infection and Lifespan in Anopheles stephensi Mosquitoes,” the work is a collaborative effort between UC Davis and the University of Arizona.

Co-authors include Luckhart and UC Davis researcher Ed Lewis, who has a joint appointment with the Department of Nematology and the Department of Entomology.

The paper, with more than 4200 article views in July alone, has drawn extensive news coverage. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill, in a July 16th article headlined “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Engineered,” wrote that the scientists “have succeeded in genetically engineering a malaria-resistant mosquito.”

In a July 17th piece, “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Created,” ABC News science writer Eric Bland wrote that scientists have created a malaria-proof mosquito by engineering "a genetic ‘on switch' that permanently activates a malaria-destroying response.”

“If these mosquitoes,” Bland wrote, “are successfully introduced into the wild, they could prevent millions of people from becoming infected with life-threatening Plasmodium--the parasite that causes malaria.”

Drexler, who grew up in Washington, D.C., received her bachelor’s degree in integrative biology, with an emphasis on animal biology, from UC Berkeley in 1999. She earned  her master’s degree in physiology and behavior from San Francisco State University in 2006.

The competitive NIH fellowships are available to provide funds to qualified students for stipends, research supplies, and research-related travel under an existing parent research grant.

The applications are evaluated on multiple criteria, including career goals, prior research training, research potential and relevant experience, and evidence of educational achievement.

This research is so important: targeting a killer that causes more than a million human deaths a year worldwide.

Malaria Mosquito
Malaria Mosquito

MALARIA MOSQUITO--Through blood-feeding, an infected malaria mosquito transmits the parasites causing the killer disease, malaria. (Photo of Anopheles gambiae by Anton Cornel, UC Kearney Agricultural Center/UC Davis.)

Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 6:54 AM

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