Casselli Awarded $70,500 NIH Grant
Dr. Tim Casselli, a Research Assistant Professor with the Department of Biomedical Sciences, has been awarded an NIH R03 grant to study Lyme Disease.
Lyme disease, which is caused by infection with the tick-borne pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi, can lead to inflammatory diseases affecting the joints, heart, and nervous systems. As there are no vaccines or effective vector controls against the infection, Lyme disease is and will continue to be a significant public health concern. This proposal directly addresses the NIH Strategic Plan for Tickborne Disease Research, with specific applications towards understanding the fundamental biology of, and the host interactions with tickborne pathogens. The overall goal of these studies is to identify candidate B. burgdorferi targets for prophylactic and therapeutic treatments for Lyme disease.
Isolates of B. burgdorferi display a high level of genetic diversity, and certain genetic types correlate with increased inflammation and disease severity in humans. Despite this, the bacterial factors involved in causing pathologic immune responses are not well understood. Recently, a portion of the B. burgdorferi genome coding for multiple bacterial genes was associated with increased pathologic immune responses from host cells in culture, however the specific genes involved and the consequences during mammalian infection have not been determined.
Using a unique method of genetic modification, we will define the specific B. burgdorferi loci required for inducing pathologic immune responses from host cells, and determine their requirement for infection and disease in mammals. Once identified, such factors are ideal candidate targets for novel prophylactic and therapeutic treatments for B. burgdorferi infection and associated inflammatory diseases.