How Intracellular Pathogens Break Down our Defences
An enormous international effort has led to the deciphering of the massive genetic code sequence that makes us human. Thanks to this work, the almost 20,000 genes in the body, each of which contains a vital piece of the puzzle of life, can be identified.
However, this achievement is only the first step in understanding how all these components work together to make a living being. It is the equivalent of knowing how to spell all the words in a book without understanding what any of them mean.
Each gene encodes a protein — the working parts that perform the functions of life. Until recently no method existed to studying many proteins at one time. Technological advances in proteomics methods have now made it possible to probe entire systems simultaneously, rather than focusing on a single protein.
As part of his research, Dr. Leonard Foster, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Proteomics, is identifying disease resistance genes in bees and covering such topics as pathogen invasion, infection and the mapping of protein interactions.
He is also learning how intracellular pathogens — microbes that make their home within the cells of our body — control the host and cause serious diseases like typhoid fever, malaria and tuberculosis. Foster is studying the interactions between these pathogens and our immune systems.
Foster’s research on understanding how these pathogens break down our defences will lead to the development of better ways to fight them in the future.