SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Michael Opata

SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Michael Opata

Dr. Michael Opata, assistant professor, Department of Biology

Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient

Project: Plasmodium Chabaudi Infection Exacerbates the Effects of Malnutrition in the Gut Mucosa

Dr. Michael Opata, Department of Biology, utilized SAFE funding to purchase antibodies and an Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST) Activity Assay Kit that would aid in determining the effect that malnutrition has on mucosal immunity during malaria infection.

“Whatever we eat affects normal microbes in our gut which contain thousands of bacteria. With malnutrition, there may be competition for nutrients, and some microbes may become harmful. For this reason, functional immune cells are critical to control the environment and remove any harmful bacteria that may arise due to a change in diet composition,” said Opata.

This aspect of malnutrition is rarely considered, and his research has shown that a change in diet can affect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and the functionality of immune cells. With leaking linings being a potential contributing factor to acute liver and kidney injuries seen in malaria-endemic regions.

The antibodies used were innate immune cells that can be surveyed for any harmful disease. The AST kit provided the ability to measure any damage that could potentially happen to a liver. These antibodies also enabled other students the ability to determine their functionality in relation to cells within the spleen.

“As an educator, it's important to equip students with research skills that would be beneficial in their future careers,” said Opata.

Noah Murr, Tyler Olender, Nicole Warnick, Paige Childers and Britney Nichols were involved with Opata’s research. They assisted with collecting gut tissues, harvesting immune cells and marking them with the fluorescently labeled antibodies to determine functionality during their research.


About the Department of Biology
The Department of Biology is a community of teacher-scholars, with faculty representing the full breadth of biological specializations — from molecular genetics to landscape/ecosystem ecology. The department seeks to produce graduates with sound scientific knowledge, the skills to create new knowledge, and the excitement and appreciation of scientific discovery. Learn more at

Compiled and Written by James Johnston 
January 18, 2021
Boone, N.C.

Dr. Micheal Opata
Published: Jan 18, 2022 12:22pm