Researching Zebrafish and T. Cruzi in Bogota, Colombia

The following entry comes from 2015 USAID | Notre Dame Global Development Fellow, Annette Ruth. In her own words, she describes her experience of working with T.cruzi motility in Bogota, Colombia.

Annette W Microscope

I am conducting my research in the Akle and Gonzalez labs here at UniAndes. Since my arrival, I hit the ground running with developing my protocol and put in nearly 60 hours of lab time during my first 5 days. What a precedent to uphold, but that is how I prefer to work – passionately. I cannot disclose the specifics of my research, for confidentiality reasons, but I can tell you that I’m working to establish zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a new model organism for the in vivo (live) study of T. cruzi motility, migration, and tissue colonization. The work is incredibly engaging and involves a lot of independent improvisation and problem-solving (one of the many reasons I love basic research), and I’m having a wonderful time.

Basically, I spend most of my time working with both zebfrafish and parasite cultures. The rest is spent troubleshooting technical aspects of equipment function, experimental setup, and practicing various techniques to ensure consistency throughout the course of experimentation.To keep me company, I have some wonderful colleagues in lab, one of whom is a technician who mostly maintains the zebrafish stock, and the others are undergraduate medical students (medical school is part of undergrad in Colombia, as it is throughout much of Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia). They’re a fantastic group of people. My supervisors include a neurophysiologist and a medical parasitologist – the former has the zebrafish facility and the latter works with T. cruzi. They have been incredibly helpful and instructive mentors, and I look forward to attaining my project-specific research goals  under their supervision.

Finally, I would be remiss in failing to pay proper tribute to my “little friends” without whom this research would be impossible –both the zebrafish and T. cruzi. They also solely keep me company about 70% of my time. Again, I will not be able to share preliminary results with you, so I have to stick to benign images. Here are the 24-36hpf (hours post-fertilization) zebrafish that I’m using, in their natural form:

Micro 2

Micro 3

Micro 1

It’s a pain in the rear to take these pics through the lens using my iPhone, but they turned out pretty well.

To follow along with Annette’s experience, you can visit her blog, Global Health Domer