The Lourido Lab studies the molecular principles of human parasitism.
455 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
Achievements & Honors
What adaptations have driven parasites from the phylum Apicomplexa to become some of the most widespread and deadly human pathogens we know?
Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite from the phylum Apicomplexa that infects an estimated 25% of the world’s population and can cause serious disease in pregnant women, infants, and immunocompromised patients. Lourido is interested in the molecular events that enable T. gondii and other apicomplexan parasites to remain widespread and deadly infectious agents. These single-celled eukaryotes comprise a phylum of organisms that parasitize diverse animal hosts. Many important human pathogens belong to this group, including the causative agents of malaria (Plasmodium spp.), cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium spp.), and toxoplasmosis (T. gondii).
The lab uses T. gondii to model features conserved throughout the phylum, such as the molecular pathways that control important developmental transitions during the infectious cycle. They combine several approaches that span phospho-proteomics, chemical-genetics, and genome editing to investigate the unique biology of these organisms. The work also seeks to expand our understanding of eukaryotic diversity and identify specific features that can be targeted to treat parasite infections. Discoveries from the Lourido lab hold great promise for exposing treatable vulnerabilities in the parasite—and in other closely related parasites.
As an undergraduate at Tulane University, Sebastian Lourido studied painting and print-making, at the same time as he learned about the fascinating systems and structures of the biological world. Though they initially seemed to require divergent career paths, the more science he learned, the more creativity he saw embodied in it. Eventually, he decided that being a scientist offered much of the creativity he had sought through the arts. Lourido earned his PhD in 2012 from Washington University in St. Louis in the lab of Dr. David Sibley. Subsequently, he was selected as a Whitehead Fellow and managed his own lab at the Institute until 2017 when he became a Whitehead Member and was appointed an assistant professor of biology at MIT.