ISB News

Dissecting Mosquitoes is Hard!

Dr. Kristian Swearingen, ISB research scientist.

Photo by Hsiao-Ching Chou

Dr. Kristian Swearingen is a research scientist in the Moritz Lab at ISB. He and his collaborators just published a paper in PLOS Pathogens that describes potential new targets for malaria vaccines. Read his article about the research. Asked about the challenge of having to dissect thousands of mosquitoes, he commented:

When we started this project, my collaborators collected all the parasites and I focused on the mass spectrometry, so I really didn’t appreciate how difficult it is to dissect a mosquito. Since then, I’ve been training to become a parasitologist. Now I can tell you from personal experience that it is not a trivial feat. You have to look at the mosquito under a microscope and use needles to carefully remove the head and squish out the salivary glands, then somehow get the tiny glob of guts into a test tube. It takes me an average of 1 minute per mosquito. The experts are much faster than I am, but it still took a long time to get enough parasites for the experiments.

This is the second proteomics of malaria paper I’ve co-authored with Scott Linder (formerly a post-doc in the lab of Stefan Kappe at CIDResearch and now a professor at Penn State). The collaboration was born over beers at an ISB/CIDResearch joint post-doc social. I was complaining that I had really cool technology but no interesting samples, and Scott said “I have an interesting sample for you!” I had always wanted to work on diseases affecting the developing world, but as an analytical chemist, my research up to that point was focused on technology development. This collaboration finally gave me a chance to work on malaria, and I used that experience to win a training award from the NIH specifically designed to bring technologists like me into the field of biological research. Now I have a chance to make a career out of applying cutting-edge technology to neglected diseases.

Recent Articles

  • Co-corresponding author and ISB President Dr. Jim Heath and co-lead author Dr. Yapeng Su.

    For Cancer Cells, There Is More Than One Path to Drug Resistance

    In findings published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers show that cancer cells can take more than one path to reach a drug-resistant cell state. These findings could have promising implications for the future of cancer care.

  • ISB researchers

    Unveiling the Guerrilla Warfare Tactics of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis

    ISB researchers have unveiled new insights on how Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogen that causes tuberculosis, enters and exits a dormant state in human hosts. About a quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, so these important findings will enable and accelerate the discovery of more effective TB drugs.

  • Merck and ISB Collaborate to Understand and Treat SARS-CoV-2 Infection

    Merck is collaborating with ISB and its partners to analyze blood samples and nasal swabs from Swedish Medical Center patients with SARS-CoV-2. Blood samples will be examined using proteomic, metabolomic, transcriptomics and genetic techniques to evaluate the impact of infection on different organs, and to identify potential biomarkers to predict the risk of severe disease.