Breakthrough in malaria research looks to body's immune cells

Groundbreaking research from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research is set to pave the way for the development of new malaria drugs and vaccines.

Dr Michelle Wykes and her team from QIMR have recently published new findings demonstrating how the can survive in a type of white blood cell in the .

Traditionally, it was believed the parasite’s development in the body was restricted to the liver and red blood cells.

Dr Wykes’ research, undertaken over several years, provides a major breakthrough in our understanding of the malaria parasites.

Dr Wykes said the findings open up a whole new approach to developing drugs and vaccines targeting the infection in the spleen.

“Our research has discovered how called dendritic cells, malfunction and shield the malaria parasite from the body’s immune attack.

“Dendritic cells normally function like generals of an army, giving orders to the body’s immune cells to fight infection,” Dr Wykes said.

“The system usually works brilliantly. However, the problem with malaria is that the disease has found a way to block dendritic cells from doing their work, meaning that the disease over-rides our immune responses. And therefore, people get sick.”

Dr Wykes was awarded a $300,000 Queensland Government Smart State fellowship in 2010 to assist her research.

“The fellowship has enabled me to progress my research and without it I wouldn’t have been able to deliver these new findings which are a major step in fighting the global problem of malaria,” Dr Wykes said.

The findings were published in the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Malaria affects more than 200 million people worldwide, causing nearly 800,000 deaths per year, mostly young children under five.

The World Health Organisation states most deaths occur in Africa where a child dies of every 45 seconds and the disease accounts for approximately 20 percent of all childhood deaths.

Provided by Queensland Institute of Medical Research

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Blood-thinning copycat enters malaria fight

Jun 01, 2010

New treatments for malaria are possible after Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists found that molecules similar to the blood-thinning drug heparin can stop malaria from infecting red blood cells.

Recommended for you

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.