June 28, 2011
Laura Sirot, assistant professor of biology at Wooster, has received two subcontracts from the National Institutes of Health.
WOOSTER, Ohio - It will be a busy summer for Laura Sirot, who is a subcontractor on two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will enable her to continue research on two of her favorite subjects: mosquitoes and fruit flies.
Sirot, an assistant professor of biology at The College of Wooster, has received a five-year, $362,000 subcontract to investigate the male seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) of a major disease vector of dengue and Chikungunya viruses: the Asian tiger mosquito. The research is a collaborative effort with scientists at Cornell University and the NIH.
Both viruses are spreading rapidly around the globe, creating a pressing need to develop novel and effective vector-control strategies for these two species. “My purpose is to identify SFPs in Aedes albopictus,” she said. The collaborators' objective is to uncover specific SFPs that, when altered, will impact an insect’s reproductive habits or blood feeding physiology, resulting in a reduced or eliminated risk of virus transfer to humans.
Sirot has also received a two-year $35,000 subcontract to test whether the herbicide atrazine affects SFPs in what is commonly referred to as the fruit fly. Her work will be done in association with researchers at Binghamton University. "The issue being addressed is that pesticides can become detrimental to the environment when non-targeted species, including humans, are affected as well,” she said. “By discovering how and what traits are affected, the researchers will then be able to determine what individuals will be prone to the negative effects from pesticides.” The long-term aim of the collaborators' research is to use the model genetic system Drosophila melanogaster (a.k.a. fruit fly) to study the genetic basis underlying susceptibility to environmental toxicants in natural populations," she said. "My specific goal is to test whether atrazine affects SFP production and transfer in Drosophila melanogaster."
Throughout the process, Sirot will turn in annual reports to the NIH, and then submit her findings to a scientific journal, which will be available to other researchers and the public at large within 12 months of publication.
“I’m very pleased to have received these grants,” said Sirot. “They will keep me actively engaged in the scientific community and enable me to include more undergraduate students in the research process.”
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