Henry Gu

Project: The role of microRNAs in the host-parasite relationship in the veterinary nematode Haemonchus contortus

Type: PHD

Institution: University of Glasgow

Haemonchus contortus is a major gastro-intestinal parasitic nematode of ruminants that causes substantial financial losses to ruminant farming world-wide. As there are no commercial vaccines, infection has historically been controlled through the use of anthelmintics. Resistance to anthelmintics is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, which raises the prospect of no viable control methods.

We are focusing on microRNAs as a novel approach to the control of H. contortus. miRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that regulate the expression of other genes and have been shown to be essential in the correct development of free-living nematodes such as Caenorhabditis elegans. Many parasitic nematodes produce excretory-secretory [ES] products that contribute to immune evasion strategies of the nematodes. We are investigating whether miRNAs present in the ES may represent a novel mechanism by which parasitic nematodes alter the host niche to promote their own survival.

The aim of the project is to characterise microRNAs from the ES of H. contortus and investigate whether these small molecules interact with the host immune system to regulate the development of immunity.