Title: Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases and Director of the CDC Southeastern Regional Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases
College/Institute: College of Veterinary Medicine
Research interests: molecular parasitology, arbovirology, molecular medical entomology, glycoproteomics, cell biology, microbial pathogenesis, vector-borne disease transmission biology
Curriculum vitae: PDF
Rhoel Dinglasan is a preeminence faculty scholar with decades of experience studying malaria and other vector-borne diseases. He arrives at the University of Florida from Johns Hopkins, where he was a faculty member in the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health. Currently, he is the director of the CDC Southeastern Regional Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases.
Much of Dr. Dinglasan’s research has focused on finding a vaccine that will prevent malaria transmission. As part of this effort, Dinglasan has focused specifically on ways in which interactions between the human malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax and the Anopheles mosquito midgut can be better understood to disrupt the transmission of these pathogens to humans. To better study these interactions, he is interested in the application of mass spectrometry toward the molecular and cellular analysis of critical transition steps during malaria parasite transmission. He has also studied how nanoparticle technology can contribute to the development of vaccine and drug delivery systems.
His interest in preventing the spread of malaria has led him to study the developmental biology of the malaria parasite – concentrating on the parasite’s sexual stage. This stage of the parasite’s life cycle does not actually cause disease in humans, so it has not been studied as thoroughly as the erythrocytic stages, where the parasite infects red blood cells and causes disease.
As part of their life cycle, malaria parasites differentiate into the sexual male and female “gametocytes." Dinglasan’s emphasis on this stage arises due to its relevance to disease transmission: when the parasites transform into gametocytes, humans become infectious – able to pass the parasites to susceptible mosquitoes. Dinglasan’s lab was the first to produce the male and female proteome for this stage of the parasite’s development.
“By studying the gametocytes,” he said, “we were able to develop diagnostic technology that allows us to identify an individual carrying these gametocytes who has absolutely no disease.” The test can detect biomarkers for these gametocytes in saliva, allowing physicians and other health workers to diagnose malaria infection without drawing blood.
Dinglasan’s lab also has an interest in both supplementing and innovating the current arsenal of anti-malarial treatments. By investigating pathways of infection and disease development, his team hopes to find natural product compounds with potential as drug scaffolds for new anti-malaria drugs. Dinglasan’s lab hopes to preempt eventual drug resistance by focusing on novel biochemical pathways in the parasite that can be targeted by natural product compounds. Combining these approaches allows the lab to target multiple aspects of the pathway from transmission to disease.
Dinglasan has served as co-chair of the Enabling Technologies Consultancy Group for the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA). He currently serves on the Editorial Board of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the Advisory Board for the United States Military Malaria Vaccine Program, and the Host-Pathogen Working Group for the NIH-funded MaHPIC program of Emory University, Atlanta, GA.