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Wednesday, 25 February 2015 22:45

In vitro platform for anti-malaria drug testing

An international team of scientists has developed a malaria-in-a-dish platform from induced pluripotent stem cells which can be used in the development of drugs against malaria.

The American-Portuguese science team focuses on malaria fight at an early stage. Malaria is caused by Plasmodia (sporozoa), which are transmitted to a human over the Anopheles mosquito. There the asexual reproduction of the pathogen occurs. The transmitted pathogen first walk into the liver to develop itsself into a subsequent stage, followed by a further stage. Thereafter, the pathogen is set free from the liver into the bloodstream, where red blood cells are infested. The sexual cycle can only takes place in the mosquito if this has taken blood from the infected human host.

New drugs are urgently needed because of the parasite repeatedly forms resistance. With the in vitro platform scientists are now able to test drug candidates which are directed against the parasite in the early liver stage before the disease is triggered in the blood and spread out via the vector mosquito, says Sangeeta Bhatia from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Brigham and Woman's Hospital in a recent press release.

Primary donor hepatocytes would be ideal, but are unable to get in sufficient quantities. Due to the small number of donors, the range of genetic diversity can not be covered. Therefore in order to study suitable drug candidates induced pluripotent stem cells developed from donors´ skin samples which are further developed to liver cells are an important solution. Thus generated liver cells can be infected with the desired pathogen followed by the drug testing. In addition, genetically distinct human liver genotypes can be produced that would not be able in the form of primary donor cells.

The scientists have reported about their new platform in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

Ng et al. (2015): Human iPSC-derived hepatocyte-like Cells Support Liver-stage Plasmodium infection in vitro. Stem Cell Reports.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2015.01.002

Additional Information:
http://www.healio.com/infectious-disease/zoonotic-infections/news/online/%7Bc71868a9-5dc3-4283-a591-3961a56f886c%7D/in-vitro-platform-for-antimalarial-testing-developed-from-stem-cells