Chris Schwake ’12 is a PhD candidate in Cell/Molecular Biology at Tufts Sackler School of Medicine. He did his undergrad at Bucknell and was admitted to this fully funded program in Molecular Biology at Tufts in the Fall of 2016. He is one of the youngest students accepted to this highly selective program.
He recently had his first article published in a prestigious hematology journal called "Blood," about treating severe pathologies that occur after malaria infection.
Below, Chris explains his work:
"The malaria parasite infects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and one species called Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for 90% of all malaria-related deaths. P. falciparum is able to achieve this because once inside a human red blood cell, it remodels the cell by forming sticky protrusions on the surface of the red blood cell. In a normal uninfected person, the outside of a red blood cell is smooth and deformable. A P. falciparum-infected red blood cell is bumpy and rigid.A consequence of this is that infected red blood cells can stick to arteries and veins throughout the body and cause severe pathologies when this occurs in the brain or placenta of pregnant women who are infected. Large blood aggregates can disrupt blood flow and cause tissue damage. My project aims in understanding how the parasite is capable of doing this, by identifying new parasite and host protein interactions that lead to this "sticky" phenomenon. We hope that by understanding these pathways, new therapeutics can be developed to disrupt these protein interactions, as there is currently an urgent and unmet need to develop targeted treatments against severe malaria pathologies. "