Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Malaria parasites use camouflage to trick immune defences of pregnant women

12.07.2011
Researchers from Rigshospitalet – Copenhagen University Hospital – and the University of Copenhagen have discovered why malaria parasites are able to hide from the immune defences of expectant mothers, allowing the parasite to attack the placenta. The discovery is an important part of the efforts researchers are making to understand this frequently fatal disease and to develop a vaccine.

Staff member at CMP. Photo: Lars Hviid"We have found one likely explanation for the length of time it takes for the expectant mother's immune defences to discover the infection in the placenta," says Lea Barfod, MSc, who is working with Professor Lars Hviid at the Centre for Medical Parasitology, University of Copenhagen.

"The parasites are able to assume a camouflage that prevents their recognition by the immune system antibodies which would otherwise combat them. So although the immune system has all the weapons it needs to fight the infection of the placenta, these weapons are ineffectual simply because the enemy is hard to spot. Ironically the camouflage also consists of antibodies, but of a type that does not help to fight infection."

The malaria parasite at war with the immune system

One human being in twelve is infected with malaria. That means 500 million people are carrying the tiny parasite, and it kills a million of them a year. The disease costs so many lives because the parasite constantly outmanoeuvres the human immune system. It starts by hiding in the red blood cells. The immune system does not bother with these as the spleen usually filters defective blood cells.

To avoid this filter, the parasite ejects a protein hook which attaches to the inner wall of the blood vessel, and even if the immune system antibodies destroy one such hook, the parasite has more than sixty in its arsenal. One of them has evolved specially to attach to the placenta. While the war is being waged the parasite propagates and infects more and more red blood cells, which are normally used for transporting nutrients and oxygen around the body.

Fighting from house to house

"In an advanced version of hide-and-seek the parasites keep looking for new ways of preventing the antibodies from recognising them. It is a kind of urban guerrilla war in which the fighting is conducted from house to house," says Lars Hviid.

"One example is the ability of the parasites to hide in the placenta. The first time an African woman conceives her placenta provides a new opportunity for the parasite to hide: a new house, so to speak, and in a way that prevents discovery by the immune system. It takes time for the immune defences to react to the new threat, and meanwhile the camouflaged parasite harms the woman and her unborn child."

The researchers are now going to study whether the malaria parasite also uses its camouflage at other stages of an infection.

"Perhaps it is not only the parasites in the placenta that are capable of hiding like this," Lars Hviid says.

"It takes the body a surprisingly long time to develop protection from Malaria, and perhaps the trick we have just discovered is part of the explanation. It is important for us to find out if this is the case in order to help us to understand malaria in general, but also to help us in our efforts to develop a vaccination. We have plenty of work to be going on with," Lars Hviid concludes.

Lea Barfod and Lars Hviid's discovery has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Professor Lars Hviid | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ku.dk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University

nachricht The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>