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Dr. Kirk W. Deitsch, Professor of Cornell University Visits GIBH

Dr. Kirk W. Deitsch, professor of Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University, visited to GIBH and gave a presentation entitled “Antigenic variation by Plasmodium falciparum: how malaria parasites maintain a chronic infection” on November 10th, 2014, in response to Prof. Xiaoping Chen’s invitation.


Chronic malaria caused by infection of Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) has been attributed to the turning expression of a restricted subset of the var multi-gene family, which encodes for its erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1). Prof. Deistch introduced the discovery of var gene expression switching that is related to the maintenance of a chronic malaria. In the meantime, he elaborated the progress by his team in unveiling the regulation mechanism of var2csa, a var gene that turned on specifically in placenta malaria  in pregnant women, and in understanding the roles of promoter, intron and ncRNA in var gene regulation. Towards the end of his lecture, he explained some interesting questions and exchanged opinions with the audience regarding the malaria vaccine development.


Prof. Deitsch graduated from Michigan State University earning his doctorate in 1994. He works at the Weill Cornell Medical College as an assistant and then an associate professor of microbiology and immunology since 2001, and a full professor since 2010. His works focuses on transcriptional regulation of the var gene family and on how parasites generating diversity within these antigen encoding genes. His team has also conducted studies on how malaria parasites repairing double-strand DNA breaks and how the special chromatin structure found at var loci influencing this process. Many results of his research have been published in high-profile journals such as Nature, PNAS, Nucleic Acid Research, Cell Host & Microbe, PLoS pathogens, etc.


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