Being published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals such as Cell is a dream of every researcher that is seldom accomplished. Cleveland State Universityís Dr. Bibo Li has not only succeeded in having her research featured in the April 3 issue of Cell, she has captured the publicationís Cover with her recent paper "RAP1 Is Essential for Silencing Telomeric Variant Surface Glycoprotein Genes in Trypanosoma brucei," (www.cell.com).
Dr. Li, assistant professor of biological, geological and environmental sciences, is available for interviews; please call University Marketing at 216.523.7279.
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With an R01 grant awarded from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, Dr. Bibo Li has been studying telomere functions in Trypanosoma brucei (T. brucei), a protozoan parasite that has ravaged sub-Saharan Africa by causing sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in cattle.
These diseases are fatal, mainly because in the mammalian host, T. brucei cells regularly switch the variant surface glycoproteins presented on the cell surface so as to evade host immune attack. Such antigenic variation process is apparently essential for T. brucei pathogenesis, and its underlying mechanisms have been the focus of the parasitology field for three decades. Dr. Bibo Liís Cell paper is a major breakthrough, providing direct evidences, for the first time, that the telomere structure is essential for the regulation of Variant Surface Glycoprotein gene expression. Telomeres are the specialized structure at the ends of linear chromosomes found in eukaryotic cells, such as human and T. brucei cells. Telomeres play an important role in the maintenance of chromosome stability. Hence telomere biology has been implied in cancer prevention and aging process and has been a popular research topic for a couple of decades. Dr. Bibo Liís recent discovery further emphasizes the importance of telomere biology and broadens its implication.
Dr. Li has identified and continues to identify genes that influence antigenic variation and other aspects of trypanosome virulence in an attempt to interfere with the genes and lead to the remission of infection or better, the elimination of T. brucei.
To illustrate the importance of this work to humankind, the pathogen known as T. brucei is estimated to infect 300,000-500,000 people, making sleeping sickness the number one or two cause of human mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Southern Sudan.
And nearly as catastrophic to the region is the nagana epidemic occurring in the cattle population of West Africa. Nagana is considered to be the only disease that has profoundly affected the settlement and economic development of a major part of Africa.
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