Alexia Anne Belperron PhD
Research Scientist in Medicine (Rheumatology) and Lecturer in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and in Organization Department; Instructor Mol Biophys & Biochem; Advisor: Center of Science and Quantitative Reasoning
Vector-borne diseases; Lyme disease; Babesia; Relapsing fever spirochetes; Immunology; Diagnostics; Ticks; Intra-vital imaging; Optical tweezers
My research is focused on infections transmitted by ticks in particular Lyme Disease, Babesia, and relapsing fever. I am interested in understanding the diseases caused by these infections, in particular those mediated by the immune system. I am also interested in developing better diagnostics for these infections.
Extensive Research Description
My current research is primarily focused on understanding the immune responses and disease pathogenesis during B. burgdorferi infections. I am particularly interested in early immune responses during infection, and the role of marginal zone B cells. We are using several novel technologies to study the spirochetes including intra-vital microscopy and optical tweezers. With intra-vital microscopy we are studying both the motility and location of spirochetes in infected mice. We are also using intra-vital microscopy to analyze the joints of the mice in the hopes of better understanding the development of Lyme arthritis. In collaboration with the Dufresne lab in the Engineering and Physics departments, we are using optical tweezers to better understand the biomechanics of spirochete movement. Spirochete movement is crucial for the bacteria's ability to invade different tissues, and also plays a role in their ability to escape immune destruction.
In addition to studying immune responses to infection, we are also working to develop better diagnostic tests for Lyme disease based on our deeper understanding of the types of immune responses that are generated. We are collaborating with L2 diagnostics on several different projects.
In addition to Lyme disease, Ixodes ticks carry several other pathogens and we are also interested in studying the Babesia parasite, as well as the newly identified human pathogen Borrelia miyamotoi.