A Clemson University scientist received a three-year, $424,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health Tuesday.
Cheryl Ingram-Smith, an assistant professor in Clemson’s genetics and biochemistry department, is studying the Entamoeba histolytica parasite that causes an intestine infection called amebiasis. Ingram-Smith has studied the parasite for several years and will use the grant funds to purchase new equipment and pay the salaries of her full-time graduate assistants.
The Entamoeba parasite infects over 50 million people each year and causes 50,000 to 100,000 deaths. According to Ingram-Smith, the parasite is incredibly unusual, because it does not have a mitochondria. She and her research team are focusing on two enzymes that help the parasite thrive.
“Entamoeba doesn’t have a mitochondria at all, so it takes glucose, goes through this process of glycolosis and gets out two ATP,” Ingram-Smith said. “It not only can’t make a lot of stuff that it should be able to make, but it can’t break down glucose well either. I’m studying a couple of enzymes that we think help glycolosis work better.”
Entamoeba histolytica is mostly prevalent in developing countries and can lead to liver damage and death when it’s left untreated. Ingram-Smith hopes to make strides in finding a vaccine for the parasite.
“A better understanding of how Entamoeba survive under different conditions should prove helpful in discovering ways to combat this disease,” Ingram-Smith said. “It’s always better to be proactive than reactive.”