Researchers from the nanomalaria group of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the Institute for Global Health of Barcelona (ISGlobal) appear in the Big Vang section of La Vanguardia for the project promoted by the ‘la Caixa’ Foundation to develop a new fast, reliable and cost-effective malaria screening test.
The project led by IBEC researcher Elena Lantero from Nanomalaria IBEC-ISGlobal Joint Group, gets funding from CaixaImpulse Validate program to develop a new technology for rapid, cheap and efficient diagnosis of a disease which threats millions of people worldwide.
Despite being preventable and treatable, malaria is an infectious disease that threatens the life of 3.2 billion people globally. Only in 2018, an estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
According to the study, the strategy has the added advantage of targeting the transmissible phase of the parasite- the gametocyte. Encapsulating two drugs with different properties into nanovesicles surrounded by antibodies can greatly improve their delivery and efficacy, according to a study led by Xavier Fernández Busquets, director of the joint Nanomalaria unit at the Institute for Bionengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by ”la Caixa”.
Combining two drugs that act through different mechanisms is one of the most efficient approaches currently used to treat malaria. However, differences in the drugs’ physichochemical properties (solubility, half-life, etc.) often affect treatment efficacy.
A study led by Xavier Fernández Busquets, director of the joint ISGlobal-IBEC Nanomalaria unit, describes an innovative approach to selectively eliminate red blood cells infected by Plasmodium falciparum, avoid their aggregation, and inhibit parasite growth.
The strategy, based on the use of nanovesicles coated with antibodies that target a parasite protein, and loaded with an antimalarial drug, represents a promising alternative in the treatment of severe malaria.
The Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and the biotech firm Bioiberica have signed a partnership agreement to study the development of new compounds derived from heparin to combat malaria.
The partnership, which was officially announced this morning at the BioSpain meeting in Bilbao, is based on the research undertaken by Dr Xavier Fernández-Busquets, head of IBEC and ISGlobal’s joint Nanomalaria unit, engaged in developing specific antimalaria therapies, and the R&D project of Bioiberica, world leader in heparin production, to seek new applications of this molecule.
Every year malaria infects 200 million people worldwide and causes half a million deaths. For several decades it has been known that when the malaria parasite enters the bloodstream, it invades the liver cells to produce thousands of merozoites – a stage in the life cycle of the parasite – that enter into the circulation and infect red blood cells, managing to evade the immune system.
Researchers have found heparin-like molecules with reduced blood-thinning activity that can be used for therapeutic approaches against malaria – in sea cucumbers, red algae and marine sponges.
Until now, heparin – which has been shown to have antimalarial activity and specific binding affinity for red blood cells infected with the Plasmodium malaria parasite – has not been explored for anti-malarial drug solutions due to its powerful anticoagulating activity. While heparin is able to block the cell adhesion of infected red blood cells to various host receptors and disrupt the growth of the pathogen, its downfall is that the quantities needed for malaria treatment would result in too much blood-thinning and bleeding. There’s also the potential risk of infection, since polysaccharides such as heparin tend to be obtained from mammals.