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John D. Chan, PhD

John D. Chan, PhD

John D. Chan, PhD

Assistant Professor


  • Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
    BSB 402

Contact Information


PhD, Pharmacology, University of Minnesota, 2015
NRSA F32 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Iowa State University
BS, Developmental Biology, University of Minnesota, 2010


Recruiting: Graduate students and Postdocs. Applicants with experience in drug screening, microscopy, immunology or genomics/bioinformatics are especially welcome to apply.

Research Interests

My lab studies the blood-dwelling parasitic worms that cause the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis and infect >230 million people worldwide. Treatment is reliant on one broad spectrum drug, praziquantel (PZQ), whose mechanism of action is poorly understood. Reliance on PZQ has several drawbacks - the drug is unable to cure juvenile, immature parasites and there is a concern of emerging resistance. Therefore, my lab is interested in the identification of new parasite drug targets and the development of assays to screen for new anthelmintics (Chan et al., 2016. PLoS Pathog.; Chan et al., 2016. Int J Parasitol Drugs Drug Resist).

Several areas we are currently focused on include:

Defining the cellular changes evoked by current anthelmintics. PZQ has been in clinical use for over 40 years, but we still know very little about its molecular mechanism of action. This has hampered our ability to identify new therapies. However, we are beginning to understand PZQs effects on both flatworm (Chan et al., 2013. Parasitol Int) and human targets (Chan et al., 2016. Nat Commun).

Studying host / parasite interaction. Blood flukes can live inside the host and evade the immune system for years, even decades. By studying the effect parasites have on their host, and vice versa, we can identify routes towards new therapies.

Using free living planaria to investigate basic flatworm biology. Work on parasitic worms has inherent difficulties (i.e. propagation of the parasite life cycle, harvesting and culturing parasites in vitro) that can be sidestepped by studying their free-living planarian relatives. These organisms can be used to study the function of different gene products or the actions of drugs on flatworms – knowledge that can be used to inform our understanding of their parasitic relatives (Chan et al., 2014. PLoS Pathog).

1. Schistosome blood flukes - Parasitic blood flukes harvested from mouse vasculature


2. Effect of praziquantel on schistosomes - Exposure to praziquantel causes a rapid, sustained contractile paralysis

3. Schistosome in a vessel - Parasitic worms inside the mesenteric vasculature

4. Tegument - Confocal stack showing fluorescently stained tegument at the parasite surface, followed by underlying layers of body wall muscle fibers

5. Regeneration planarian flatworm - One week time-course of planarian regeneration following amputation of the head and ail.