Josh Mayoral

Josh Mayoral 230px
URM project: Mucin expression in mouse intestinal epithelial cells infected with Toxoplasma gondii

Greetings, and welcome to my URM page!


I am currently a sophomore at NAU working in Dr. Fernando Monroy’s laboratory and majoring in biomedical science. I plan on pursuing a P.H.D/M.D degree by attending medical school after obtaining my undergraduate degree at NAU. Ultimately, I plan to become a Naturopathic Physician. My hobbies include chess, soccer (F.C. Barcelona of course…and maybe Liverpool), and listening to the scientific podcasts TWIV, TWIP, and TWIM.

About my research

I am currently investigating the role mucins play during infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Below is an abstract of my research:

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Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan parasite, estimated to infect about one-third of the global population of humans.  T. gondii primarily infects the intestines, which is lined with a layer of mucus designed to prevent microbial infiltration. Composing this layer of mucus are proteins called mucins. The purpose of this study is to determine whether T. gondii infection causes significant changes in the genetic expression of various mucins located in the intestines; a relationship that previously has not been studied.  It is hypothesized that T. gondii will cause significant up-regulation of mucin proteins during infection in mouse intestinal cells. To test this hypothesis, MODE-K cells will be cultured and infected with the parasite, after which the genetic material of the cells will be analyzed. The relevance of this study is primarily medicinal. New therapeutic methods may be developed if a link is found between mucin expression and T. gondii infection. 

Josh Mayoral - Toxoplasma gondii thumb 470px

Above is the life cycle (image courtesy of of the parasite T. gondii. T. gondii utilizes a complex life cycle in order to ensure survival. A typical host for this parasite is the mouse, which I am currently studying by investigating mouse intestinal cells during infection with T. gondii.

Mucosal barrier and pathogen invasion

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(Linden et. al., 2008)
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(McGuckin et. al., 2011)

Pictured above are examples of pathogenic invasion of the mucosal barrier and its consequences. Pathogens exhibit a wide variety of strategies to penetrate the mucus in an effort to colonize the epithelial cell layer. Who knows what sort of strategies T. gondii implements, if any? 

About Myself

I grew up in Murrieta, California until the age of 12. In all honesty, I didn’t see myself pursuing a career in medicine during that period, but rather in astronomy. In those days, watching nebulas and learning of different galaxies never ceased to amaze me, and to some extent, even today.  In 2005, my family moved to Ash Fork, Arizona; a small town about 50 miles west of Flagstaff. Had we not moved to such a rural town, I’d imagine my hobbies being much different. For whatever reason, I began developing a heavy interest in medicine and the body’s ability to heal. Eventually, I convinced myself to become a doctor, and attended Northern Arizona University in the fall of 2010. I began undergraduate research in the fall of 2011 under the mentorship of Dr. Fernando Monroy through the URM program.

I would like to send a special thank you to my family, who continue to show their support despite my moody nature (!). I thank my research mentor, Dr. Monroy, who accepted me into his laboratory and continues to answer my endless questions. I thank the URM program, for giving me the opportunity to obtain a better sense of research and its responsibilities. Lastly, I would like to thank all of my friends who have shaped me into who I am today.