Taddeo '11 Applies Parasite Research to Diabetes

Evan Taddeo '11
Evan Taddeo '11
Evan Taddeo ’11 is one of those people who isn’t too bothered by a parasite. Playing with them from their juvenile stage, he cares for the eggs, perpetuating a new generation of infective baby worms. Taddeo is beginning his thesis in the biology department over the summer, analyzing the life cycle of the mouse parasite Heligmosomoides bakeri (H. bakeri).

Early this summer, Taddeo and his advisor Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Ashleigh Smythe visited the Trudeau Institute, a biomedical research center on Saranac Lake. They received juvenile forms of H. bakeri, a well-studied and accessible parasite that does not affect humans. The juvenile worms are infective, and Taddeo injected them into four male mice in early July. As time has gone on, Taddeo has taken a sample of each mouse’s feces and spun the fecal slurry solution in a centrifuge to separate out H. bakeri’s eggs. After confirming that the resulting eggs are in fact the correct ones, Taddeo has successfully maintained the parasitic life cycle.

Although this process may seem somewhat unsavory for many people, Taddeo is using the parasite life cycle to test a theory called the hygiene hypothesis. Created about 15 years ago, the hygiene hypothesis suggests that more instances of autoimmune diseases exist in more modernized, industrial countries due to a cleaner environment with fewer intestinal parasites. Diagnoses support this hypothesis; for example, while around 2.6 percent of Americans have psoriasis (an autoimmune disorder that manifests itself on the skin), only 0.4 percent of Chinese people have the disease. Allergies are also on the rise in the U.S., making more scientists question why these trends are occurring.

Taddeo is looking to apply his research to insulitis, an early stage of Type 1 diabetes in which the immune system causes inflammation of the insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas. His next step in his project will be to induce insulitis in some mice and then inject them with H. bakeri. He hypothesizes that the parasite will cause the immune system to work in a different way and combat the substance that the parasite secretes, possibly making the symptoms of diabetes less severe. Taddeo will measure the mice’s immune system response then look at their intestines and pancreas after the mice have died.

After he graduates from Hamilton, Taddeo hopes to go to graduate school to pursue biomedical research, focusing on Type 2 diabetes.

Related research story.

Taddeo is a graduate of Cromwell High School in Cromwell, Conn.
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