Leishmania

I woke up early this morning fully intending to get some work done for classes, but found a shiny bauble that I just have to write about.  (Found this through an interest group in LinkedIn… anyone notice how its slowly resembling Facebook in there?)  Its a paper on Leishmania, a disease transmitted by sand flies.  We don’t have it here in the US, but its endemic in parts of South America and the Middle East (in fact its something that our troops are getting infected with at a low level). I know next to nothing about, but expect a sporadic series on this, because its potentially useful in all of the classes I teach for different reasons:

Biology 1403 Diversity in the Linving World (bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, animals): Leishmania is a protozoan parasite of mammals that can cause some pretty nasty diseases.  I was going to post a picture of it in here, but as I look at them I am thinking that (a) this disease is so horribly disfiguring that its just not right to post pictures of other people going through that in here and (b) if I want you to keep reading this I should actively try to prevent you from vomiting.  Here is a link to a google image search if you really must.  My point being that disgusting pictures tend to keep students, um, engaged.

Biology 1402, Cell biology and genetics:  this organism breaks a lot of things that are taught to these students as “rules”.  I do it too.  You teach genes and gene expression with examples that tend to be biased towards how humans.  Because all living things are strikingly similar under the molecular hood, that is a valid approach, but you end up not having time to cover the COOL rulebreakers like Leismania.  It duplicates parts of its genome as needed.  It pops parts of its genome out of the chromosome to make smaller chromosomes.  Apparently (I learned an hour ago) it’s promoters don’t really play a role in regulating gene expression (that is truly weird).  I must know more.

Biology 1913 Microbiology: we include eukaryotic parasites in our class (many do not, which is a shame), so this is a no brainer.

Plus, look at this picture from a figure in the paper.  Remind anyone of anything?  You would prefer another target, Princess?  A military target?

Well, its time to wake the kids and start the morning circus.  More on this topic later.

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About SubOptimist

I am an Associate Professor in the Science Department at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston. I teach introductory biology courses at both the majors and non-majors level in addition to microbiology. Previous to that I spent 7 years as a postdoctoral researcher on different viruses. While I don't miss being on the "grant treadmill", I think better when I write and miss writing up data for papers and grants; this blog helps me with that a little. And sometimes my kids' insanely funny and cute antics need to be shared with the world. Any view expressed in this blog is that of me personally and not Georgia Perimeter College or the GPC Clarkston Science Department.
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