Potential applicants interested in joining the lab are always welcome to contact me via e-mail. I am currently seeking graduate students. Previous training in the field of virology is not required. Accepted students will receive training and gain experience working with human viral pathogens under BSL-3 laboratory conditions. Prospective graduate students with previous experience working in a molecular biology laboratory are strongly encouraged to apply to the Virginia Tech Ph. D. program in Entomology. A Molecular Cell Biology & Biotechnology option is available in the Entomology program. Prospective students also may apply to an interdisciplinary Ph. D. program in Genetics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.
My research interests focus on the long-term goal of developing novel methods for controlling arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) based on understanding at the molecular level the virus-vector interactions occurring in the mosquito. Arboviruses must replicate in both a vertebrate and invertebrate host. While the vertebrate infection is acute and often associated with disease, continual transmission of virus is dependent on the establishment of a persistently infected state in the arthropod host. Understanding how arboviruses establish persistent infections in mosquitoes could have applications in controlling the impact of vector-borne viral diseases on public health.
The Alphavirus genus of the Togaviridae family is a diverse group of viruses that includes significant threats to both human and animal health. My lab currently develops and uses reverse genetic technologies to study how alphaviruses interact with mosquito hosts. These studies seek to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms used by arboviruses to limit their susceptibility to the mosquito's innate immune responses.
Innate immune responses to viral pathogens
Mosquitoes lack the complex immune systems of vertebrates. Nonetheless, the innate immune responses of insects to bacterial and fungal pathogens appear to be similar to those of vertebrates. However, little is known about the mosquito's immune responses to viral pathogens. Current work in the Myles lab seeks to further understand the role of innate immune responses as barriers to arbovirus infection in the mosquito. This work also has the potential to provide new insights into innate immune responses to viral pathogens in the vertebrate host
RNA interference pathways
Many studies suggest that the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway of the mosquito functions as an antiviral defense. Therefore, studies in my laboratory also focus on RNAi pathways in mosquito vector species. This research is of dual benefit in that RNAi is now a widely used tool in functional genomic studies. A better understanding of the RNAi pathways present in mosquitoes will complement genome sequence data for medically relevant vector species.
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