Bites, Blood & Behavior: biophysical approaches to understanding mosquito blood feeding.

Bites, Blood & Behavior: biophysical approaches to understanding mosquito blood feeding.

By In PhD proposals 2019 On March 29, 2019

Project: Bites, Blood & Behavior: biophysical approaches to understanding mosquito blood feeding.

Laboratory: Insect-virus interactions unit (Institut Pasteur), Quantitative mosquito biology lab (CRI)

Affiliation: Insect-virus interactions unit Institut Pasteur & The Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity
Address: Insect-Virus Interactions Unit Institut Pasteur François Jacob Center, 4th floor 28 rue du Docteur Roux 75724 Paris Cedex 15 France & Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity 8bis Rue Charles V 75004 Paris, France

LAB Director
Name: Louis Lambrechts
Phone number: 0140613497

Name: Felix Hol
Phone number: 0649063294

Subject Keywords: mosquitoes, biophysics, arbovirus, quantitative imaging, behavior, insect vectors, machine learning, microfluidics
Summary of lab’s interests: The insect-virus interactions unit at Institut Pasteur investigates the ecology, evolution and genetics of insect-virus interactions to advance our basic understanding of arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) transmission by mosquitoes. The quantitative mosquito biology lab is a new lab jointly hosted by Institut Pasteur (within the insect-virus interactions unit) and the Center for Research & Interdisciplinarity (CRI-paris). The lab develops new technologies to scrutinize mosquito biology and leverages these tools to understand the external (e.g. environment) and internal (e.g. physiology, genetics) drivers of mosquito behaviors that are relevant to pathogen transmission.
Project summary: Mosquitoes are vectors for diseases including dengue and malaria, for which half the world population is at risk. Mosquito-borne pathogens are transmitted during blood feeding, yet despite its crucial role in pathogen transmission, blood feeding behavior remains ill understood. The sensory integration of physical and chemical cues on the skin and below its surface, for instance, are poorly characterized. These knowledge gaps are due to a lack of tools to study mosquitoes. To overcome these limitations, we will leverage biophysical, engineering, and machine vision approaches to create an open platform to study mosquito blood feeding. Imaging mosquitoes feeding on a transparent human skin mimic will enable the characterization of the behavioral trajectory leading to blood feeding and the dynamics of pathogen transmission. To unravel the effects of a mosquito’s physiological state on blood feeding, we will quantitatively characterize how distinct physiological states (e.g. nutrition, infection) drive blood feeding behavior. To identify the key molecular drivers of blood feeding, we will characterize the biting dynamics of genome-engineered mutant Ae. aegypti deficient in various sensory pathways feeding on artificial skin mimics. This project will provide a deep understanding of the neurobiology underlying blood feeding by mosquitoes, and the effect that physiology has on this behavior. Elucidating the transmission of mosquito-borne pathogens may provide valuable insights to combat mosquito-borne diseases. Furthermore, we aim to develop tools that are urgently needed in the mosquito research community and hope that their open availability will drive the field forward.
Interdisciplinary aspect of the project: The project combines mosquito biology, materials engineering, machine learning, infection biology, microfluidics and a wealth of other approaches and techniques. The ideal candidate therefore has an open and creative mind-set, a strong affinity for quantitative biology (including data analysis) and a passion for solving (biology) problems using unconventional approaches. Prior experience with mosquito research is not required, love for the topic of research, a creative mind, and a strong motivation are.
Funding: One funded position available.