Kirsten Hanson, Ph.D.
Areas of Specialization
- Antimalarial Drug Discovery
- Automated High Content Imaging
- Host-Parasite Interactions
- Plasmodium Cell and Developmental Biology
Ph.D.; University of Cambridge
M.S.; University of Chicago
B.A.; University of Chicago
Despite great strides in malaria control during the past decade, Plasmodium parasites still caused over 200 million clinical cases of malaria during 2015, leading to over 400,000 deaths.
The parasite forms responsible for malaria exclusively infect red blood cells, but all mammalian Plasmodium infections must initiate in the liver. This liver stage of parasite development has emerged as a key target for antimalarial chemoprophylaxis, as it precedes both disease and transmission back to the mosquito vector. Successful interventions against liver stages can thus protect both individuals and populations, a key challenge for the malaria elimination agenda. Dr. Hanson's research program is dedicated to identification of the most desirable compounds for liver stage-directed chemoprotection.
In addition to the lab's compound screening program, they focus on novel assay development and chemical biology approaches to interrogating the unique cell biology that supports syncytial growth during the Plasmodium liver stage and the rapid cellularization process that ends the liver stage, generating thousands of individual parasites that invade red blood cells, and cause disease.
Dr. Hanson's lab works with the rodent malaria models P. berghei and P. yoelii, using both in vitro and in vivo approaches and a variety of experimental techniques. The lab has developed a robust method linking confocal microscopy to online image processing to automate parasite identification and subsequent high resolution imaging in both live and fixed infected hepatoma cells. Their research relies heavily on the quantitative analysis of such parasite images to both elucidate fundamental questions of Plasmodium liver stage biology and host–parasite interactions and identify desirable small molecules for antimalarial drug development.