Hillyer Laboratory

Julián F. Hillyer, Ph.D.

Vanderbilt University


Mosquitoes are cosmopolitan pests and disease vectors.  For the completion of their life cycle, females of all anautogenous species are required to take a blood meal for the production of eggs.  Blood feeding can cause irritation in mammals and can potentially lead to the transmission of deadly and debilitating pathogens such as Plasmodium falciparum (malaria), Wuchereria bancrofti (lymphatic filariasis), dengue fever virus, and West Nile virus.  To date, the control of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases has consisted of killing the mosquito using chemical or biological agents, using drugs to treat infected individuals, and limiting vector-human contact.  Although these approaches have reduced mosquito populations and disease prevalence in certain regions, their effectiveness is diminishing.  Primary reasons for this include the emergence of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and drug resistance by pathogens.  Hence, because of the diminishing efficacy of current control methods, compounded by the failure to discover new insecticide replacements, drugs, and effective vaccines, it has become necessary to develop new control strategies.

The Hillyer Lab is interested in basic aspects of mosquito immunology and physiology, focusing on the mechanical and molecular bases of hemolymph (blood) propulsion, and the immunological interaction between mosquitoes and pathogens in the hemocoel (body cavity).  Given that chemical and biological insecticides function in the mosquito hemocoel, and that disease-causing pathogens traverse this compartment prior to being transmitted, we expect that our research will contribute to the development of novel pest and disease control strategies.

  Julián F. Hillyer, Ph.D.

Mosquito research at Vanderbilt University

The Hillyer Lab utilizes state-of-the-art imaging and molecular methodologies to gain a better understanding of mosquito immunology in physiological and organismal contexts.