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Abel Cruz Camacho

Visiting Scientist

Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with all kinds of creepy, sleazy and horrifying creatures, ranging from poisonous plants and fungi, to slimy eels and octopi, to nasty worms and flies. Later on, I discovered that I love biochemistry and explaining life through chemical reactions and molecular players. I quickly became passionate about microbiology and infection biology, which combine my passions for creepy and nasty creatures with molecular biology and biochemistry.

I studied my bachelors in Diagnostic Biochemistry in the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where I discovered my one true love: parasites. I learnt all their names, which diseases they produce, their life cycles and hosts, but my university courses alone were not enough to satisfy my passion. Thus, I joined the lab of Neta Regev-Rudzki in the Weizmann Institute of Science, where I did my master of science in the genetic regulation of the malaria parasite, the most evil and devastating parasitic disease of them all.

After my masters, I realized I wanted to continue researching these sly and grim creatures called parasites. However, I wanted to do something that could more easily be applied to improve the health of those millions who get infected by them.

Cerebral malaria is the most severe and lethal complication of this disease, with the main victims being children under the age of 5. For my PhD, I wanted to start a project where I can study the interactions of the malaria parasite with the brain. This research question brought me to the Ben Maoz lab, where I am starting a collaboration project so I can apply their cutting-edge technologies and organ-on-a-chip systems to study cerebral malaria, since the available models to study cerebral malaria are still very limited.

My project will focus on studying the effects of diverse communication molecules and virulence factors secreted by the malaria parasite on the human brain niche cells, including the BBB and brain endothelium, neurons and glia. Hopefully, we will manage to replicate the malaria infection process in these brains-on-a-chip.

I am not really sure what I want to do after my PhD, but I see myself one day giving a great parasitology lecture to motivate more people to study these neglected diseases that affect the least privileged ones. Until then, there is a long list of parasites waiting for me to learn more: Leishmania, Trypanosoma, brain-eating amoeba, just to mention a few of them. Gotta catch (I mean, study) them all!

If the previous sentence was not a good enough hint, outside of the lab I am a professional weirdo and work part-time as a Pokémon trainer, alternative fashionist and punk/pop enthusiast. I love videogames, hanging out with friends and dancing and rocking to the beat of my favorite singers and bands. So don't be surprised if you find me one day in Dizengoff center buying pokémon plushies, dressed up in something unusual or at your local emo nostalgia party in Tel Aviv :)

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