Megan Ringling
Advisor: Steven Blanke
Cohort: 2020

An overall focus in the Blanke lab is to understand the mechanisms secreted bacterial protein toxins use to modulate host cells, and how that modulation contributes to a pathogen-produced disease state in humans. The goal of my research is to characterize the molecular basis and mechanism that leads to the known risk for development of gastric cancer, an increased risk that is solely due to infection with human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori (Hp). Specifically, I am characterizing a prominent secreted virulence factor, vacuolating cytotoxin A (VacA), and how the variation within the gene encoding VacA contributes to the known risk for gastric cancer development. Since VacA is secreted into the extracellular environment, it is a useful target for drug development, my work can be a foundation for strategies that could be developed to neutralize toxins before they enter host cells.