CB 399: Model Organisms for Genetic Dissection of Host-Pathogen Interactions Fall 2014

Model Organisms for Genetic Dissection of Host-Pathogen Interactions

Course Director: Javier E. Irazoqui
Curriculum Fellow: Zofia Gajdos, Zofia_Gajdos@hms.harvard.edu

Lecturers: Javier Irazoqui, Francisco Quintana, and Neal Silverman

The last decade has seen an explosion in our understanding of the basic mechanisms that underlie host defenses against infections. Used as surrogate hosts to study host defense responses, signaling pathways, and virulence mechanisms, a trio of modern genetically tractable model organisms has provided the opportunity to unravel some of the most vexing mysteries of immune defense and pathogenesis: the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, and the zebrafish Danio rerio. This course will address the strengths and weaknesses of each of these model systems, will highlight major past contributions and future potential, and will provide an entry point for implementation of these models in ongoing projects at HMS.

Course Lecturers will introduce the model organisms’ biology and physiology, will summarize the state of the art, and will introduce the students to the major unanswered questions in each field.  Examples from the literature of real-life applications of each system will be briefly presented, to provide a general framework for development of student presentations around the next steps necessary to advance the field. 


First Session: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 1 – 4 PM  
Location: Countway, Ballard Room

Second Session: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 1 – 4 PM
Location: TMEC Building, Room 333

Assignment for Day 2, Due 12/17/2014 (registered students only):

The goal of this assignment is to closely explore a topic related to the application of one of the three model organisms to an important question in host-pathogen interactions, with emphasis on how we know what we think we know, and on future steps needed to advance knowledge in the field and societal benefit. The proposal will result in a short in-class presentation of the research idea.

In class presentation on 12/17/2014:  Each student (you are welcome to work individually or in groups of up to 3 people) shall be prepared to give a 10-15 minute summary of the topic and approach they have chosen. 

Deliverable: An NIH-style Specific Aims page outlining their proposed research.

Ideas for lesson plans/topics for students to research:

  1. Use of C. elegans as drug screening tool
  2. Defining the amount of information that can be obtained from model organisms and effectively translated to human disease
  3. Effect of the microbiota on host inflammation and immunity
  4. What defines a pathogen? What is pathogenesis in a specific infection?
  5. Unbiased approaches to elucidate the functions of genes of unknown function in bacterial pathogens
  6. Use of Drosophila to understand some basic mechanism of host defense in humans
  7. Zebrafish in drug screens for immunomodulation

DROP DEADLINE: Wednesday, December 9, 2014