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by Keyword: Plasmodium falciparum


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Moles, E., Marcos, J., Imperial, S., Pozo, O. J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2017). 2-picolylamine derivatization for high sensitivity detection of abscisic acid in apicomplexan blood-infecting parasites Talanta 168, 130-135

We have developed a new liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry methodology based on 2-picolylamine derivatization and positive ion mode detection for abscisic acid (ABA) identification. The selected reaction leads to the formation of an amide derivative which contains a highly active pyridyl group. The enhanced ionization allows for a 700-fold increase over commonly monitored unmodified ABA, which in turn leads to excellent limits of detection and quantification values of 0.03 and 0.15 ng mL-1, respectively. This method has been validated in the highly complex matrix of a red blood cell extract. In spite of the high sensitivity achieved, ABA could not be detected in Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells, suggesting that, if present, it will be found either in ultratrace amounts or as brief bursts at defined time points within the intraerythrocytic cycle and/or in the form of a biosynthetic analogue.

Keywords: Abscisic acid, Apicomplexa, Liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry, Malaria, Picolylamine, Plasmodium falciparum


Pujol, A., Urbán, P., Riera, C., Fisa, R., Molina, I., Salvador, F., Estelrich, J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Application of quantum dots to the study of liposome targeting in leishmaniasis and malaria International Journal of Theoretical and Applied Nanotechnology 2, (1), 1-8

Nanotechnological devices for therapeutic applications are massively addressed to diseases prevalent in the developed world, particularly cancer, because of the wrong assumption (for both ethical and technical reasons) that nanomedicines are too expensive and thus they can not be applied to diseases of poverty. Here we have applied quantum dots to study at the cellular level the delivery of the contents of liposomes to erythrocytes infected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and to macrophages infected by the leishmaniasis causative agent Leishmania infantum. A number of works have reported on the encapsulation in liposomes of drugs against both diseases as a strategy to increase therapeutic efficacy and decrease unspecific toxicity. Liposome-carried drugs end up inside Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) and in the phagolysosome system of Leishmania-infected macrophages but some knowledge gaps still obscure subcellular events related to these processes. As a proof of concept, we have used confocal fluorescence microscopy to follow the fate in pRBCs and infected macrophages of quantum dots encapsulated in liposomes, and of lysosomes, leishmaniasis and malaria parasites, nuclei, and phagosomes. Our data indicate that liposomes merge their lipid bilayers with pRBC plasma membranes but are engulfed by macrophages, where they fuse with lysosomes. Lysosomes have not been observed to join with phagosomes harboring single Leishmania parasites, whereas in phagosomes where the parasite has divided there is lysosome-specific fluorescence with a concomitant disappearance of lysosomes from the cytosol. In later stages, all the lysosome-specific label is found inside phagosomes whereas the phagosomal marker cadaverine strongly stains the macrophage nucleus, suggesting that Leishmania infection induces in its later stages nuclear degeneration and, possibly, apoptosis of the host cell. These results indicate that induction of macrophage apoptosis should be explored as a possible strategy used by Leishmania to prepare its egress.

Keywords: Leishmania infantum, Leishmaniasis Liposomes, Malaria, Nanomedicine, Nanotechnology, Plasmodium falciparum, Quantum dots


Marques, J., Moles, E., Urbán, P., Prohens, R., Busquets, M. A., Sevrin, C., Grandfils, C., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2014). Application of heparin as a dual agent with antimalarial and liposome targeting activities toward Plasmodium-infected red blood cells Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine 10, (8), 1719-1728

Heparin had been demonstrated to have antimalarial activity and specific binding affinity for Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) vs. non-infected erythrocytes. Here we have explored if both properties could be joined into a drug delivery strategy where heparin would have a dual role as antimalarial and as a targeting element of drug-loaded nanoparticles. Confocal fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy data show that after 30. min of being added to living pRBCs fluorescein-labeled heparin colocalizes with the intracellular parasites. Heparin electrostatically adsorbed onto positively charged liposomes containing the cationic lipid 1,2-dioleoyl-3-trimethylammonium-propane and loaded with the antimalarial drug primaquine was capable of increasing three-fold the activity of encapsulated drug in Plasmodium falciparum cultures. At concentrations below those inducing anticoagulation of mouse blood in vivo, parasiticidal activity was found to be the additive result of the separate activities of free heparin as antimalarial and of liposome-bound heparin as targeting element for encapsulated primaquine. From the Clinical Editor: Malaria remains an enormous global public health concern. In this study, a novel functionalized heparin formulation used as drug delivery agent for primaquine was demonstrated to result in threefold increased drug activity in cell cultures, and in a murine model it was able to provide these benefits in concentrations below what would be required for anticoagulation. Further studies are needed determine if this approach is applicable in the human disease as well.

Keywords: Heparin, Liposomes, Malaria, Plasmodium, Targeted drug delivery, Heparin, Malaria, Plasmodium, Red blood cell, Targeted drug delivery, Liposomes, 1,2 dioleoyl 3 trimethylammoniopropane, fluorescein, heparin, liposome, nanoparticle, primaquine, adsorption, animal experiment, anticoagulation, antimalarial activity, Article, binding affinity, confocal microscopy, controlled study, drug targeting, encapsulation, erythrocyte, female, fluorescence microscopy, human, human cell, in vivo study, liposomal delivery, mouse, nonhuman, Plasmodium falciparum, transmission electron microscopy


Pujol, A., Riera, C., Fisa, R., Molina, I., Salvador, F., Estelrich, J., Urbán, P., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2013). Nanomedicine for infectious diseases: Application of quantum dots encapsulated in immunoliposomes to the study of targeted drug delivery against leishmaniasis and malaria Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications. 4th International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications , International ASET Inc. (Ontario, Canada) , 1-8

Nanotechnological devices for therapeutic applications are massively addressed to diseases prevalent in the developed world, particularly cancer, because of the wrong assumption (for both ethical and technical reasons) that nanomedicines are too expensive and thus they can not be applied to diseases of poverty. Here we have applied quantum dots to study at the cellular level the delivery of the contents of immunoliposomes to erythrocytes infected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and to macrophages infected by the leishmaniasis causative agent Leishmania infantum. A number of works have reported on the encapsulation in liposomes of drugs against both diseases as a strategy to increase therapeutic efficacy and decrease unspecific toxicity. Liposome-carried drugs end up inside Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) and in the phagolysosome system of Leishmania-infected macrophages but some knowledge gaps still obscure subcellular events related to these processes. As a proof of concept, we have used confocal fluorescence microscopy to follow the fate in pRBCs and L. infantum-infected macrophages of quantum dots encapsulated in liposomes, and of lysosomes, Leishmania and Plasmodium parasites, nuclei, and phagosomes. Our data indicate that liposomes merge their lipid bilayers with pRBC plasma membranes but are engulfed by macrophages, where they fuse with lysosomes. Lysosomes have not been observed to join with phagosomes harboring single L. infantum parasites, whereas in phagosomes where the parasite has divided there is lysosome-specific fluorescence with a concomitant disappearance of lysosomes from the cytosol. In later stages, all the lysosome-specific label is found inside phagosomes whereas the phagosomal marker cadaverine strongly stains the macrophage nucleus, suggesting that L. infantum infection induces in its later stages nuclear degeneration and possibly, apoptosis of the host cell. These results indicate that induction of macrophage apoptosis should be explored as a possible strategy used by L. infantum to prepare its egress.

Keywords: Leishmania infantum, Leishmaniasis, Liposomes, Malaria, Nanomedicine, Nanotechnology, Plasmodium falciparum, Quantum dots


Urban, Patricia, Estelrich, Joan, Adeva, Alberto, Cortes, Alfred, Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2011). Study of the efficacy of antimalarial drugs delivered inside targeted immunoliposomal nanovectors Nanoscale Research Letters 6, (1), 620

Paul Ehrlich's dream of a 'magic bullet' that would specifically destroy invading microbes is now a major aspect of clinical medicine. However, a century later, the implementation of this medical holy grail continues being a challenge in three main fronts: identifying the right molecular or cellular targets for a particular disease, having a drug that is effective against it, and finding a strategy for the efficient delivery of sufficient amounts of the drug in an active state exclusively to the selected targets. In a previous work, we engineered an immunoliposomal nanovector for the targeted delivery of its contents exclusively to Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells [pRBCs]. In preliminary assays, the antimalarial drug chloroquine showed improved efficacy when delivered inside immunoliposomes targeted with the pRBC-specific monoclonal antibody BM1234. Because difficulties in determining the exact concentration of the drug due to its low amounts prevented an accurate estimation of the nanovector performance, here, we have developed an HPLC-based method for the precise determination of the concentrations in the liposomal preparations of chloroquine and of a second antimalarial drug, fosmidomycin. The results obtained indicate that immunoliposome encapsulation of chloroquine and fosmidomycin improves by tenfold the efficacy of antimalarial drugs. The targeting antibody used binds preferentially to pRBCs containing late maturation stages of the parasite. In accordance with this observation, the best performing immunoliposomes are those added to Plasmodium cultures having a larger number of late form-containing pRBCs. An average of five antibody molecules per liposome significantly improves in cell cultures the performance of immunoliposomes over non-functionalized liposomes as drug delivery vessels. Increasing the number of antibodies on the liposome surface correspondingly increases performance, with a reduction of 50% parasitemia achieved with immunoliposomes encapsulating 4 nM chloroquine and bearing an estimated 250 BM1234 units. The nanovector prototype described here can be a valuable platform amenable to modification and improvement with the objective of designing a nanostructure adequate to enter the preclinical pipeline as a new antimalarial therapy.

Keywords: Plasmodium falciparum, Antimalarial drug, Nanovector, Immuno-liposomes


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