Dr. Sharakhov seeks to understand how mosquito genomes are organized and evolve as mosquitoes adapt to diverse environments and change their ability to transmit malaria parasites.
More than one million human lives are lost each year by malaria, a disease transmitted exclusively by the Anopheles mosquito. Some of the most effective public health measures against vector-borne diseases throughout history have been those targeted at the vector. However, because of growing insecticide resistance, the available strategies for alleviating the impact of malaria are now sufficient. In fact, partially because of global warming, increased air transportation, and the ability of mosquitoes to quickly adapt to new habitats, the public-health burden of malaria is increasing and expanding. There is an urgent need to explore novel strategies for vector-borne disease control. Ecological, behavioral, and physiological adaptations related to malaria transmission are often associated with genome rearrangements. Dr. Sharakhov's research aims to understand the role of chromosomal inversions and heterochromatin modifications in mosquito evolution, adaptation, and ability to transmit malaria parasites. Dr. Sharakhov's laboratory developed unique skills and innovative approaches to physically map genomes and to study chromosomes of disease vectors. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a novel genomics-based approach for vector control.