Marine protists are a highly diverse collection of species, and the inability to genetically modify a large majority of them has been a major hurdle to their study. Dr. Roberto Docampo collaborated with Virginia Edgcomb and her lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to develop genetic tools that would allow successful transfection of genes into Bodo saltans.
Bodo saltans is a unicellular organism found in marine and freshwater habitats. It belongs in the Discoba group which also includes the clinically significant parasitic protists Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei, and Leishmania spp. Docampo and his team of researchers have been at the forefront of developing the genetic modification tool CRISPR-Cas9 for Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas Disease.
B. saltans, like the other protists in this study, will serve as a model organism for related protists that may be difficult to culture in the laboratory or in which transfection protocols are unsuccessful. This study is a step toward closing the knowledge gap in the biology and evolution of this diverse kingdom of organisms.