Meet Novin Nezamololama: an international student from Iran. He is completing his Masters of Science degree in the Environmental Life Sciences graduate program at Trent University.
Novin studies an enzyme from Giardia which could potentially be a novel pharmacological target.
Giardia causes “beaver fever” or giardiasis in many mammals including humans. Each year, Giardia cysts in drinking water or food cause over 280 million infections.
This is a special concern in the developing world, where up to 15% of children under two years old may be infected.
Diarrheal diseases such as giardiasis are the second-leading cause of death in children under five years of age (McCormick, 2014).
Giardiasis can be treated with drugs, but these are not always effective and they can have detrimental side effects on the benign intestinal microorganisms in humans.
Novin studies an enzyme called flavohemoglobin. As indicated by the name, it resembles our own hemoglobin. But instead of carrying oxygen, flavohemoglobin protects Giardia from the toxic effects of nitric oxide produced by the host by converting it to harmless nitrate.
Other microbes, including those found in the intestine also have similar flavohemoglobins. Novin studies both the Giardia and bacterial versions of flavohemoglobin, and is especially interested in whether there are agents that can selectively bind to and block the function of the Giardia enzyme while leaving the ones from benign bacteria.
To do this he first purifies these enzymes, and then uses spectroscopy and calorimetry to measure the binding affinities of different agents to these enzymes.
This research may lead to the development of new drugs to treat giardiasis that act as selective Giardia flavohemoglobin inhibitors.
If this enzyme was blocked, Giardia would be more susceptible to the action of the nitric oxide that is generated as an immune response by the host in order to expel the parasite.
Novin’s research contributes to the goal of more effective treatments caused by the scourge of waterborne pathogens.
These treatments, along with vigilant monitoring of our drinking water sources and providing clean water in the developing world will one day make beaver fever a disease of the past.
Thank you Novin for leading the way with this innovative research!!
Here is what Novin has to say about his experience at Trent University:
“As a smaller university Trent has done a great job in terms of providing bursaries and scholarships for domestic and international students which is the reason why I chose Trent in the first place. I have also been given several opportunities to volunteer and work in lab and gain more “hands-on” experience during my undergraduate and graduate studies. I find it much easier to approach faculty members at Trent compared to bigger universities which is obviously a bonus. My supervisor Dr. Steven Rafferty has been a huge asset in helping me move this research forward.”