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Biological Sciences


Dr. Marjorie Jones

Mentor Department



Leishmaniasis is considered a neglected tropical disease affecting millions of people worldwide and is caused by the parasitic protozoan Leishmania (1). The current treatments for the disease can be costly and have various adverse side effects (2). There have been limited studies on compounds that are used in various religious practices where leishmaniasis is widespread. In some of these regions with a higher prevalence of leishmaniasis, an indole class of hallucinogens called tryptamines, are used in ritualistic practices. Since individuals with leishmaniasis might be exposed to these compounds, it is important to investigate if these indole derivatives are activating or inhibiting the Leishmania parasite (3). Studying this will help us better understand if the ceremonial use of the indole compounds in some societies might pose a risk to people in regions where leishmaniasis is endemic. Additionally, growing Leishmania cells on a lab rocker can be tested with the aim of getting a more accurate representation of cell growth and viability in vitro (4). These conditions offer a better understanding of Leishmania cell activity in their hosts because the rocking motion may resemble movement of living organisms. This research tested the effects of either tryptamine, harmine, or harmaline on cell growth and activity of the enzyme, secreted acid phosphatase (SAP), in a static or rocking environment. Preliminary results show that the rocking motion altered the way Leishmania cells responded to the indole compounds. The cultures in a constant rocking motion exhibited different growth patterns and SAP production compared to the static cultures.

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