Dissecting the molecular genetics underlying mosquito attraction to humans
Dr Andrew Hammond
Imperial College London
Malaria is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes, which use their sense of smell to track down humans. This biting behaviour is strictly limited to females because a blood meal is only needed to produce eggs, whereas plant nectar can sustain both males and females. If we understood the molecular basis of a mosquito’s attraction to humans, we could target this process to stop the spread of malaria.
I will use the most recent advances in genome engineering and two-photon microscopy to visualise how the female brain and sensory organs of the mosquito become specialised to respond to human odour. I will develop tools to reveal potential co-factors and then modify these to assess their role in odour response using behavioural assays and live imaging of neuron activity.
My findings have the potential to reveal new targets for vector control, such as odour-baited traps or gene drives.