ETH Zurich professor Peter Seeberger has been working on a sugar-based malaria vaccine for years. The new test takes him one important step closer to his goal. The malaria pathogen plasmodium falciparum carries poisonous sugar molecules called GPIs for short on its surface that are able to be individually identified. Professor See-bergers research team is now developing a new method that demonstrates that the malaria pathogens toxic sugar molecules trigger a specific immune reaction in adults.
Antibodies in blood from malaria regions
Tests show that blood samples taken from adults living in areas of Africa where malaria is endemic contain specific antibodies against particular GPIs. While infection is still possible despite the antibodies, the consequences are less serious. The immune system recognizes the poisonous sugar molecules as foreign bodies and blocks their toxic impact. Not living in high-risk areas, Europeans lack the relevant antibodies. As soon as Europeans are infected with malaria, the number of antibodies increases significantly. Subsequently, there is a direct link between the amount of antibodies and protection against the disease.
This insight is thanks to a novel method for detecting antibodies. Faustin Kamena, a post-doc in Professor Seebergers lab, has developed a special chip that can, inexpensively and with minute quantities of blood serum and sugar molecules, determine whether or not someone has formed particular antibodies against various GPIs. To this end, the researchers use the purest possible GPIs. These can be produced synthetically and in large amounts in a laboratory, as the Seeberger team has demonstrated in earlier research.
The new method involves affixing over 64 pads comprising pinpoint dots to glass slides. Every little pad consists of several tiny heaps of different GPIs in varying concentrations. When blood serum is then adminis
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ETH Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology