Malaria, a life-threatening disease, claims approximately 600,000 lives worldwide each year. This disease is caused by parasites that are transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The infection of the liver by these parasites is a crucial part of their life cycle.
By harnessing and leveraging the same cutting-edge mRNA technology used in the development of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers engineered a modified mRNA vaccine that successfully stimulated the production of liver-resident memory T cells. The vaccine was found to be effective against the malaria parasite when tested with mice.
Co-author of the study, Associate Professor Patrick Bertolino, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Liver Immunology Program said that this is an mRNA vaccine with a twist.
“The vaccine is based on the same technology successfully used for COVID-19 but has been engineered and optimised for the liver to generate the most protective response against the parasites causing malaria,” Associate Professor Bertolino said.
Published in the journal Nature Immunology, the collaborative study was led by researchers from the Ferrier Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington and the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, the University of Melbourne. The Centenary Institute’s Associate Professor Bertolino and Dr Kieran English are both co-authors on the paper.
“The study is a great example illustrating how scientists working in different disciplines and located in different countries can successfully collaborate and combine their expertise and ingenuity to engineer an innovative product that holds immense potential for improving the well-being of countless individuals,” said Associate Professor Bertolino.