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Category: CTEGD Blog

Trainee Spotlight: Ciro Cordeiro


Dr. Ciro D. Cordeiro recently completed his Ph.D. training in Roberto Docampo‘s laboratory.

I was born in Brazil and grew up in a small city in the heart of the country, a place of great natural beauty dominated by savannas and agriculture. I have always been fascinated by nature and curious about all forms of life. My interest in science motivated me to enroll in biology as an undergraduate at the University of Brasilia. As I learned the current challenges of modern biology, I became aware of how parasitic diseases are still a prevalent burden in my home country and abroad. After graduating, I enrolled in a master’s program where I studied the parasite that causes Chagas disease, Trypanosoma cruzi, and its vectors, the Triatominae bugs. Then I decided to study the pathogens’ cells at the molecular level, so I enrolled at The University of Georgia.

Why did you choose UGA?

I wanted to learn about parasitic diseases that affect tropical countries and UGA has one of the most complete and competent group of researchers working on tropical and neglected diseases. Here, I knew I would have many options of interesting labs, many of them with world-renowned researchers. Additionally, I wanted to be exposed to this rich research environment to learn about the work being developed in different model organisms.

What is your research focus/project and why are you interested in the topic?

I am studying phosphate and polyphosphate regulation in Trypanosoma brucei. Recently, I worked on the cell signaling pathway named inositol phosphates and looked at how they regulate phosphate homeostasis. Phosphate is essential for all living cells, but there is little information on how parasites’ and other unicellular organisms regulate it. One important molecule for phosphate storage is the ubiquitous polymer named polyphosphate. I believe that understanding phosphate and polyphosphate regulation in eukaryotic parasites may lead to a better understanding of the parasites’ biology. The study of phosphate regulation may also help us understand cellular biology processes of other organisms.

What are your future professional plans? 

I intend to continue my training in a top-caliber research institution where I can keep studying the biology of parasites and learn about other cellular biology model organisms. I look forward to participating in interdisciplinary collaborations to address the core challenges related to parasitic diseases, while also serving as a mentor for students.

Have you worked with any collaborators outside of UGA during your training?

I was supported by the EMBO and CTEGD’s Training Innovations in Parasitologic Studies Fellowship to visit the lab of Dr. Adolfo Saiardi at the University College London to perform experiments during my Ph.D. training. We had a productive collaboration that resulted in a successful publication. This great experience enabled me to learn many new techniques that are now routinely used in our lab. Since then, Dr. Saiardi’s lab has published new interesting findings on polyphosphate, which are relevant to many of the current projects of our lab. If possible, I would like to visit Dr. Saiardi’s lab again to continue our collaborative projects.

What is your favorite thing about UGA?

My favorite thing about the experience in UGA was the diverse environment we encounter here. I met people from all continents and learned about their home countries, cultures, and their work. This was an exceptional opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and discover research topics unrelated to my own.

Any advice for a student interested in this field?

I think it is important to carefully choose where you want to study during graduate school. It is imperative to know the program you are enrolling in, when it comes to the research they are performing, the facilities available and whether that aligns with your expectations and ambitions.


Your finiancial donations to CTEGD support the research efforts of students like Ciro Cordeiro. Give today!

Trainee Adds New Tool to the Trypanosome Toolbox

Trypanosoma brucei stained with mCLING
mCLING-staining of membrane (green) and DAPI staining of DNA (magenta) in trypanosomes in various life cycle stages. Flagella appear as tube-like structures along the length of the cell body. Nanotubes can be seen projecting outward from the periphery of the cells.

When Ph.D. trainee Justin Wiedeman started investigating the role of protein kinase TbCK1.2, an enzyme found near the flagellum of Trypanosoma brucei, he quickly ran into a problem common to parasitologists. He needed a better tool for visualizing the membranes of this parasite. Since none of the membrane probes on the market quite did the job, he looked at how he could modify one for his purpose. He found a successful candidate in Synaptic Systems’ mCLING.

What is Trypanosoma brucei?

Trypanosoma brucei is a single cell parasite that causes Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), which is also known as African sleeping sickness. HAT occurs in 36 sub-Saharan countries where tsetse flies transmit the parasite to people and livestock. In cattle, the disease is known as nagana. Tsetse fly control efforts have drastically reduced the number of cases. According to the World Health Organization, in 2015, there were around 2,800 cases. However, a person can be infected for months or even years without symptoms. By the time symptoms become evident, the person is in the advanced stages of the disease and their central nervous system is impaired.

New tools are needed to study trypanosomes

There is still much to be learned about the parasite that could lead to better detection and more effective treatment. A major obstacle to the study of this tiny organism is the lack of tools and technology. Kojo Mensa-Wilmot’s research group in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases at The University of Georgia has been instrumental in developing techniques and tools to increase the research community’s understanding of T. brucei. Now, Wiedeman has added a new tool to the trypanosome biology toolbox – a general method of outlining trypanosomes in fluorescence microscopy experiments.

“We are the first group to solve this general problem in super-resolution microscopy of T. brucei,” said Wiedeman. “mCLING is a highly versatile tool for studying trypanosome biology – it can be used with live or fixed trypanosomes.”

Fluorescent microscopy has been a leading method of studying T. brucei; however, there are limitations to this technology. Super-resolution microscopy offers great advantages over standard fluorescence microscopy. By employing several techniques to increase resolution, it allows for the observation of objects smaller than what can be seen with visible light.  Yet, it is not without its own limitations, most notably the inability to determine the periphery of cells. Without knowing the outer edges of the parasite, orientation of organelles and other structures within the cell is difficult.

“For Trypanosoma brucei, most of the membrane probes available do not work well in fixed trypanosomes,” said Wiedeman. “Researchers have been forced to use crude methods to outline trypanosomes in fluorescence microscopy.”

These “crude methods” include superimposing a transmitted light image or hand-drawing the outline. However, this workaround only allows for a two-dimensional study of the cell. Therefore, Wiedeman turned to a dye called mCLING that has been developed to track the membranes of neurons using super-resolution microscopy to see if he could adapt the technology to T. brucei membranes.

mCLING allows for the visualization of T. brucei membranes

“mCLING labels the flagellum and plasma membrane vividly, sometimes providing details of cell structure that rivals images obtained with scanning electron microscopy,” said Wiedeman.

Using a combination of standard-resolution and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, he was able to confirm mCLING labels the plasma and flagellar membranes of T. brucei. Furthermore, using the Zeiss ELYRA S1 super-resolution microscopy in the Biomedical Microscopy Core, mCLING allowed for a 3D reconstruction of the parasite. This is the first time such an image has been reported. Finally, using the new ImageStream X Mark II in the CTEGD Cytometry Shared Resource Laboratory, he discovered mCLING could be used to track endocytosis (the process of importing molecules into the cell) in real time.

Recognizing mCLING’s potential to inform other studies of trypanosome biology, Weideman optimized protocols for using it with immunofluorescence assays and thus making possible what had been impossible with the overlay technique – visualizing the location of organelles in the vertical dimension relative to the cell body.

“It is especially well-suited for studying flagellar membrane biogenesis as well as kinetically tracking uptake of the plasma membrane into vesicles inside trypanosomes,” said Wiedeman. Other laboratories have already implemented these protocols in their own research. Steve Hajduk’s group, also in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, is using mCLING to study nanotubes in T. brucei.

This tool will allow for the study of trypanosomes in finer detail than ever before and the Mensa-Wilmot Research Group anticipates unlocking previously unseen secrets in T. brucei.


The full published study is available online: Wiedeman J, Mensa-Wilmot K (2018). A fixable probe for visualizing flagella and plasma membranes of the African trypanosome. PLoS One 13(5):e0197541.

UGA Flow Day 2018

The faculty and staff of the University of Georgia Cytometry Shared Resource Laboratories invite you to a day of flow cytometry education on June 26 at Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Anyone currently using the technology of flow cytometry or planning to in the future should attend including Principal Investigators, Post-Docs, Graduate Students, Technical Staff, and Undergraduates.

Application specialists from Nexcelom, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, BD Life Sciences, and EMD Millipore Corporation will present seminars throughout the day. Please see the schedule for a complete list of talks.

A free lunch will be provided by Beckman Coulter.

There is no cost to attend this one-day event, but registration is required. Please register online:

If you have questions or need more information, please contact Julie Nelson at

For more information about CTEGD Cytometry Shared Resource Laboratory, please visit their website:


Trainee Spotlight: Anat Florentin

trainee Anat Florentin

Anat Florentin, a post-doctoral associate in Vasant Muralidharan‘s laboratory, is originally from Israel. She received her BSc degree from Tel-Aviv University and MSc from the Weizmann Institute of Science. She obtained her Ph.D. also from the Weizmann Institute where she studied programmed cell death mechanisms using the fruit fly as a model organism. Dr. Florentin moved to the United States 4 years ago when she joined the Muralidharan Research Group. During her time at UGA, she has received a number of awards in recognition of her research:

  • American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018-2020)
  • Postdoctoral Research Award, UGA Office of Research (2018)
  • Foreign travel award, UGA Office of Research (2018)
  • Best Poster Presentation award at the UGA GSPS Research Day (2016)
  • Best Postdoctoral Poster award at the 2015 UGA Conference on Drug Discovery (2015)
Why did you choose UGA?

Since my background is in basic cell biology and genetics, I knew very little of the biology of parasites but was determined to study malaria. While I was looking into different places in Europe and the US, I met with another Israeli, Lilach Sheiner who, at the time, was doing her postdoctoral training with Dr. Boris Striepen at UGA. She told me very good things of CTEGD and of a great newly recruited faculty who studies malaria. I came for a visit, and was impressed by the engaging scientific community, the super friendly atmosphere and the variety of different parasites and approaches to study tropical neglected diseases. I am so glad I made this decision!

What is your research focus/project and why are you interested in the topic?

The goal of my research is to understand the unique cell biology of malaria parasites and to identify potential drug targets. In order to do that I develop and apply genetic and molecular tools that are used to manipulate the genome of the parasite. During my years in the lab I was involved in several projects; One of them studies mechanisms by which the parasite transports proteins into the host red blood cell. Another interesting project focuses on a conserved complex from bacterial origin that resides within a unique parasite organelle called the apicoplast. Lastly, I am looking for genes that might be involved in programmed cell death processes in the parasites.

What are your future professional plans?

I want to establish my own research lab, conduct independent research and train the next generation of future scientists.

Have you done any field work or is there a collaborator/field site that you would like to visit in order to enhance your training?

Although we use field samples in our studies, I have never been to any field site, and would absolutely love to visit one. I am positive it will enhance my training and will add another layer to the work that I am doing. I am sure that visiting any field site in a malaria endemic area, such as Africa or Southeast Asia would be an enriching experience that would underline the significance of our work.

What is your favorite thing about UGA and Athens, GA?

Many things… At CTEGD I cherish the collaborative atmosphere, the variety of parasitism-related topics, the strong basic science that goes together with field studies and translational research. I am highly appreciative of the fact that I have access to a huge amount of knowledge by working side by side with top experts in these fields.

Athens is also great. Moving here in 2014 with a family of 2 young kids couldn’t go smoother! We found here a great community of friends, great public schools, and amazing nature. I love the mountains, the trees and the wildlife around us!

Any advice for students interested in this field?

There is still so much to do and learn in the field of parasitology and every discovery that you make may impact the life of the millions that suffer from these diseases. Don’t hesitate if you don’t know much about parasites. No matter what your background is, you can use the tools and knowledge that you acquired and apply them to this challenging but rewarding research!


Your financial gift to the CTEGD Fund helps provide field research opportunities to trainees like Anat Florentin through The CTEGD Training Innovations in Parasitological Studies Fellowship.

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Silvia Moreno named Corresponding Member of the Latin American Academy of Sciences

Silvia Moreno

Silvia Moreno was recently named Corresponding Member of the Latin American Academy of Sciences. She is a distinguished research professor in the department of cellular biology and also serves as director of CTEGD’s NIH-funded Training Grant in Interdisciplinary Parasitology, Vector Biology, Emerging Diseases. Her research team works with Toxoplasma gondii, an apicomplexan parasite that infects almost one-third of the world population.

The Academia de Ciencias de América Latina, created in 1982 under the sponsorship of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, promotes and contributes to the advancement of mathematical, physical, chemical, earth, and life sciences, and to their application to the development and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Academy promotes cooperation among scientific institutions and the exchange of persons and scientific knowledge for the integration of Latin American and the Caribbean; studies of sciences policy that contribute to the stable and continuous development of the countries of Latin American and the Caribbean; science at different educational levels and among the entire population.


Silvia Moreno named Distinguished Research Professor

Silvia J. Morenoa professor in the cellular biology department and director for the NIH Training Grant in Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, is recognized for her studies on calcium signaling in parasitic protozoa.

Her work defined the link between calcium signaling and pathogenesis of infectious organisms. Her research focuses on Toxoplasma gondii, a pathogen that infects one-third of the world population. She and her team discovered mechanisms of calcium signaling in parasites and novel compartments that store calcium that are different from those present in mammalian cells. Her laboratory developed new genetic tools to study calcium that could be used for high-throughput assays to find new pharmacological agents for the potential treatment of parasitic diseases.

Based on another fundamental discovery from her lab, that Toxoplasma takes specific nutrients from its host, she proposed the development of therapeutics that combine host-encoded and parasite-encoded functions as a novel approach for chemotherapy.

Anat Florentin receives 2018 Postdoctoral Research Award

Anat Florentin, a postdoctoral researcher in Vasant Muralidharan‘s laboratory at the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, studies molecular mechanisms that drive life stages of Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of parasite species that infect humans with malaria. During her exceptionally productive years at UGA, she has advanced two related areas of research to learn more about the functions of P. falciparum gene and metabolic pathways. First, she established a highly efficient, markerless system to create mutants more rapidly using the powerful CRISPR-Cas9-based genetic editing tool. Her data from this project was published in the high-impact journal mSphere. Second, she used the CRISPR-Cas9 tool to understand P. falciparum’s unique plastid known as the apicoplast, which harbors essential metabolic pathways for the parasite’s growth and whose biological processes could be ideal parasite-specific drug targets. This work has been recognized by multiple invitations to present her work and a first author publication in Cell Reports.

Created in 2011, the Postdoctoral Research Award recognizes the remarkable contributions of postdoctoral research scholars to the UGA research enterprise. The UGA Research Foundation funds up to two awards a year to current scholars.

28th Annual Molecular Parasitology & Vector Biology Symposium


Join us on Thursday, April 26 for the 28th Annual Molecular Parasitology & Vector Biology. We are expecting 200 researchers from 19 organizations to attend this day-long conference that features 12 talks, 59 poster presentations, and a fully catered lunch. The day will conclude with a keynote address from Patricia Johnson from UCLA’s Molecular Biology Institute.


Download Abstract Book


8:15 am – Registration begins in front of Masters Hall

8:30 am – Poster set-up in Pecan Tree Galleria

9:00 am – Opening Remarks & Session I – Masters Hall

10:10 am – Break and Poster Viewing – Pecan Tree Galleria

10:50 am – Session II – Masters Hall

12:10 pm – Lunch in Ballroom & Poster viewing – Pecan Tree Galleria

1:30 pm – Session III – Masters Hall

2:30 pm – Break and Poster Viewing – Pecan Tree Galleria

3:00 pm – Session IV – Masters Hall

3:40 pm – Introduction of Keynote Speaker

View the schedule of presentations for the 28th Annual Molecular Parasitology & Vector Biology Symposium.


There is a parking deck next to the Georgia Center. Since it is Reading Day at UGA there should be plenty of space in the South Deck. However, the Carlton Street Deck is a short walk from the Georgia Center if additional parking is needed.


Speakers should receive an email with a link to a Dropbox folder to upload their presentation. Please upload your presentation before 8:00 am Thursday, April 26.

More information is available on our symposium page.

Sign up for our mailing list to get announcements about next year’s symposium.