Dr. Hanson’s lab is focused on the cellular and developmental biology of Plasmodium parasites and host-parasite interactions, particularly in the asymptomatic liver stage of the parasite lifecycle. Plasmodium parasites are the causative agents of malaria, a devastating global disease, causing upwards of 600,000 deaths and untold morbidity each year. Before causing any disease in a mammalian host, malaria parasites must first undergo an expansion phase in the liver. Motile parasite forms called sporozoites introduced into the skin via mosquito bite, migrate to the liver and invade hepatocytes. Each single sporozoite will de-differentiate and commence replication, producing thousands of progeny inside a protected vacuolar compartment within the hepatocyte over the course of a few days. Once fully mature, these progeny will enter the circulation and initiate the blood stage of infection, along with the symptoms and syndromes of malaria.
Research in Dr. Hanson’s lab uses the rodent malaria models, P. berghei and P. yoelii, to investigate liver stage Plasmodium development and the host-parasite interactions, in addition to searching for novel antimalarial compounds via high-content phenotypic screens.