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UR professors awarded $310,000 grant to study how coral, algae get along so well

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Professor Malcolm Hill and his wife Professor April Hill, who both teach at the University of Richmond, were awarded a three-year National Science Foundation grant for a research project called “Evaluating the Molecular Genetic Pathways Responsible for Stable Host: Symbiont Interactions in Sponge: Algal Associations.”

That’s quite a mouthful!

As Prof. Hill explained in an interview on CBS 6 News at 7 Friday, it’s a chance to understand how the algae cells can be absorbed into coral cells in a mutually compatible relationship, or symbiosis. Conversely, pathogens, such as the parasite that causes malaria, destroys its host cell.

Why? Were algae once pathogens, too, that evolved into a benign presence?

The Hills study could demonstrate how algae cells enter their host cells and whether freshwater sponges interact with algae the same way marine-based coral does.

And that could have profound implications for how we understand and treat parasites.

Watch Dr. Hill’s interview and see how this important work could impact all of us.