Dr. Kent Hill's laboratory is investigating flagellum biology and cell motility in African trypanosomes. These protozoan parasites cause a disease that is commonly called "African Sleeping Sickness." They are transmitted to the bloodstream of their mammalian hosts through the bite of an insect vector, the tsetse fly. Once in the bloodstream, these highly motile, unicellular parasites burrow through the blood vessel endothelium and eventually invade the central nervous system, where they initiate a cascade of events that ultimately results in fatal sleeping sickness.
There are two general, long-term objectives of Hill's research. First, his team aims to provide a better understanding of the cellular and molecular biology of trypanosomes and related kinetoplastid parasites, thereby facilitating the development of more effective treatments for the diseases caused by these organisms. These parasites are the source of morbidity and mortality in several million people worldwide and current treatment regimens are antiquated, costly and ineffective.
Secondly, his research attempts to exploit trypanosomes as a model system to investigate the function of the eukaryotic flagellum. As early diverging eukaryotes, trypanosomes have historically been a rich source for the discovery of novel biological phenomena that are subsequently found to occur in other eukaryotic organisms.