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MMP #16: Insights into Toxoplasma gondii parasites

MMP #16: Insights into Toxoplasma gondii parasites

Host: Jeff Fox with special guest, Emma Wilson. Emma H. Wilson of the University of California, Riverside, talks with Jeff Fox about efforts, with her collaborators to determine more precisely how Toxoplasma gondii parasites disrupt the mammalian brain—in this case, the brains of mice. This same parasite infects about one-third of the human population, but is held in check by the immune system unless those host defense mechanisms become impaired. Wilson and her collaborators find that these parasites interfere with the cycling of the neurotransmitter glutamate within the central nervous system, blocking its uptake by astrocytes, widely distributed cells within brains that are intertwine with and thus work very closely with neurons, which are the main cells for transmitting nerve impulses throughout the central nervous system.  Some damaging effects of the parasites can be reversed by treating the mice with a drug—in this case, it happens to be an antibacterial drug but here acts by a s