Infectious Diseases

Shedding Light on Chagas Disease

Huan Huang, M.D.

Huan Huang, MD

Professor, Department of Pathology


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Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) is a protozoan parasite that causes Chagas disease. T. cruzi is transmitted to humans through the feces of bloodsucking insects in endemic areas of Latin America. Chagas disease is a growing health concern in the United States and other countries with large Latin American immigrant populations. Two of the major concerns are the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose Chagas' heart disease and the possibility of transmission of the disease through blood transfusion or organ transplantation.

The laboratory of Huan Huang, MD, studies the molecular biology of T. cruzi, the pathogenesis of Chagas disease, and genetic techniques. Their research holds promise for therapeutic drug development.

Dr. Huang and his group study the protein kinases and kinase signaling pathways in T. cruzi, identifying and characterizing components in cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways in T. cruzi. They also investigate the role of infection-related damage in cardiac microvasculature and parasite-derived Thromboxane A2 in pathogenesis, and are exploring resolvins as a potential therapeutic agent for Chagas disease.

The Huang lab has advanced molecular genetics in T. cruzi by designing a modified pTREX vector that uses an N-terminal fusion of a ligand-controlled destabilization domain (ddFKBP) to a gene/protein of interest. This vector system allows rapid and reversible protein expression and efficient functional analysis of proteins in different T. cruzi life-cycle stages. These transgenic T. cruzi are being used to understand disease mechanism(s) underlying chronic T. cruzi infection. Furthermore, these transgenic T. cruzi strains induce strong protection against re-infection in mice providing a tool to understand an effective immune response for protection against T. cruzi infection.