- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
His seminar, to begin at 4:10 p.m., will be in-person and also will be broadcast live on Zoom at https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/
"Parasitic nematodes are master manipulators of host immunity," Dillman says in his abstract. "Little is known about the identity and function of the cocktail of effectors they release during active infection. We have developed an effector discovery model using entomopathogenic nematodes and fruit flies, which we are using to identify and characterize potent modulators of insect immunity."
Dillman recently received a $1.8 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health to study the microscopic parasitic nematodes or "worms" that infect billions of humans and can cause blindness, cognitive issues and sometimes death. He focuses his research on identifying the specific proteins in a nematode's spit or venom that can trick the immune system to ignore its presence. His work on the fruit fly as his model organism could lead to treatments for autoimmune diseases in humans, such as celiac, Crohn's or inflammatory bowel diseases.
Dillman, who joined the UCR faculty in February 2015, is featured in a UC Riverside press release, "Parasitic Worm Venom Evades Human Immune System," posted July 20, 2020 on EurekAlert.
Worms Affect Billions of People. "By some estimates, nearly a quarter of the world's population is infected with various types of microscopic worms, or nematodes, with effects ranging from cognitive impairment and blindness to debilitation, elephantiasis, and death," writer Jules Berstein related. "Examples include hookworm, which thrives in the American South, causing developmental delays and anemia; and pinworms, which commonly infect children and child care workers with an itchy perianal-area rash."
She quoted Dillman: "You can have a person riddled with infection who never realized there's a 2-centimeter-long worm in their eye and thousands of parasites in their blood. The immune system never signaled something was wrong. How is that possible? We know very little about how that works."
Dillman described nematodes as "devastating parasites of humans, capable of modulating our biology in numerous ways, including suppressing our immune systems. The goal of my lab is to understand this modulation and to characterize the chemical pathways that allow it to happen. There's compelling data that parasites could even be used to treat autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's or inflammatory bowel disease. Parasitic worms are just the coolest things you could study because there are so many strange interactions, both positive and negative, that occur between the worms and their hosts."
Why Fruit Flies? Aylin Woodward of Business Insider spotlighted Dillman's work in a news story published Sept. 13, 2020. She wrote that his lab "is looking at 500 or so different types of proteins released by nematodes that infect fruit flies" and quoted Dillman as saying that "flies are cheaper and easier to work with, and the parasites that affect insects release the same proteins as those that infect mammals."
Dillman received his doctorate in 2012 from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a private research university in Pasadena, and then served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford from 2013 to 2014. He holds a bachelor's degree (2006) from Brigham Young University.
Nematologist Shahid Siddique, assistant professor, coordinates the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars and will introduce Dillman. He may be reached at email@example.com.