Outline of Our Research
Malaria is responsible for the deaths of over a million people each year. Approximately half the world's population is at potential risk of the disease, which infects 300 million people annually. The Plasmodium parasites responsible for the disease have a complex life cycle which involves both a vertebrate (mammal) and invertebrate (Anopheles mosquito) host. The parasites have evolved many strategies that allow them to evade the host immune system.
The innate immune system is a highly specialized first line defense system against many infectious diseases, including malaria. However, the role of innate immunity in response to Plasmodium parasites is still unclear. We aim to better understand the role of host innate immune responses to malaria parasites by using mouse malaria models and genetically-modified mice lacking a variety of genes important for the innate immune system. We believe our studies will give new insights into the interactions between malaria parasites and the host innate immune response, and will enable us to develop new strategies such as new drugs or vaccines to combat this disease.
We aim to develop novel vaccines against malaria based on novel vaccination techniques and/or novel adjuvants. The development of a DNA vaccine is one the promising strategy for stimulating immunity against malaria. To improve the immunogenicity of such DNA vaccines in higher primates and humans, we have investigated molecules that may be used as novel adjuvants for improving vaccine immunogenicity.
We are also undertaking extensive studies to develop hemozoin, a malarial metabolite, as a new endogenous vaccine adjuvant against malaria and as an exogenous vaccine adjuvant for many protein antigens as well as in allergy models. We are also interested in the role of the innate immune system on hemozoin's adjuvant properties.