This project can be adapted to suit Honours, Masters and PhD level students.
Schistosomiasis is a serious global problem and the second most devastating parasitic disease after malaria. Currently, there is no effective vaccine available and treatment is entirely dependent on praziquantel chemotherapy, which raises significant potential threat to public health should drug resistance develop. The paucity of molecular tools to manipulate schistosome gene expression has made an understanding of genetic pathways in these parasites difficult, increasing the challenge of identifying new potential drug and vaccine candidates.
In this project, we aim to develop a CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat)-mediated gene editing system in schistosomes for better understanding gene function, providing a powerful approach in the identification of new drug and vaccine targets and the unravelling of potential drug resistance mechanisms. We will perform CRISPR-mediated gene editing (including Cas9, CRISPR inhibitory/activation) in different life cycle stages of schistosomes and test/validate the gene modification efficiency by next-generation sequencing and further phenotypic studies. This CRISPR-Cas9 system in schistosomes will significantly improve the ability to manipulate the schistosome genome. In addition, by using CRISPR-Cas13 based system, we will develop fast, accurate and portable diagnostic tools for the diagnosis of schistosomiasis and other neglected tropical diseases in the future.