UP ISMC researchers share their research at the 2022 H3D symposium

Posted on October 27, 2022

Malaria remains a serious public health concern and challenges such as malaria parasite drug or antimalarial resistance is impacting heavily on the goal to eliminate the disease. Professor Lyn-Marie Birkholtz (DSI/NRF SARChI Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control) and 7 researchers from her Malaria Parasite Molecular Laboratory (M2PL) research group, presented some of the group's research at the 2022 H3D Symposium, hosted by the University of Cape Town’s Holistic Drug Discovery & Development (H3D) Centre, which took place from 25-28 October at Webersburg Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The M2PL researchers are doing very important malaria parasite drug discovery work, including Plasmodium parasite surveillance, and epidemiology and transmission dynamics. The researchers including Prof Birkholtz, four staff and three PhD students shared their research through oral presentations or posters on day 2 and 3 (26 and 27 October) of the 4-day long symposium.  

Posters were presented by (from top left to right and bottom left to right)

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1. Dr Janette Reader, appointed in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, is one of five international researchers to produce transmissible forms of malaria parasites, and only one to stage-stratify transmissible forms of parasites for stage-specific antimalarial compounds, globally. Her  poster was titled “Streamlined and robust stage specific profiling of gametocytocidal compounds against Plasmodium falciparum”.

2. Dr Mariëtte van der Watt, appointed in the School of Health Systems and Public Health, is one of less than five international researchers to robustly produce and maintain viable, stage-specific Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes in in vitro cell culture. Her poster was titled “Repurposing open-source chemistry for transmission blocking antimalarials”.

3. Mariska Naude is a PhD student in the M2PL group. Her poster was titled “Profiling stage-specificity of gametocytocidal compounds to facilitate antimalarial drug discovery”.

4. Dr Jandeli Niemand, a Y1 NRF-rated researcher and the successor to the DSI/NRF SARChI Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control. Her research focus is on proteonomic analysis of drug-treated parasites. Her poster was titled: “Asante potassium green-1 as a tool for analysing changes in Plasmodium falciparum intracellular K+ channels”.

5. Nicola Greyling is another PhD student in the M2PL group. Her poster was titled: "A novel ex vivo Plasmodium falciparum platform to evaluate gametocytocidal activity of lead antimalarials ".

Orals were presented by (from left to right)

Ashleigh van Heerden, a PhD student in the M2PL group presented an oral with the title “Applying machine learning on chemo-transcriptomic profiles to stratify antimalarial compounds with similar mode of action”.

Dr Dina Coertzen, a senior postdoctoral fellow in the M2PL group, had an oral presentation with the title “Novel amino-artemisinin derivatives display potent dual activity against P. falciparum”.

Prof Birkholtz (in action in the image below) was an invited speaker and her presentation was titled “Transmission-blocking antimalarials: a tool to elimination?” She spoke about the importance of any new antimalarial treatment needing to target more than one biological process in order to have impact on malaria transmission-blocking activity (TBA). Currently, one development priority remains combinations of dual-active compounds with equipotent activity against both the disease-causing asexual (ABS) and transmissible, sexual gametocyte stages. However, if these dual-active compounds target the same biology in asexual and sexual stages, once resistance develops in the ABS, this can be perpetuated through transmission of resultant gametocytes. With an increasingly expanding knowledgebase of the unique nature of gametocyte biology, Customized strategies are being developed to identify compounds that are able to target essential processes in these transmissible stages to overcome this challenge. This is all made possible due to an increasingly expanding knowledgebase of the unique nature of gametocyte biology. Through work in the M2PL, it has been shown that  unbiased screening based on TBA can deliver TBA-selective compounds.

Prof Birkholtz and her group’s presentations are always interesting and clearly highlights the amazing work being done by the group of researchers. Their research is contributing towards preventing malaria parasite drug resistance from totally derailing the malaria elimination agenda. You make us proud and your research contributions to fighting malaria make you real #lifechangers.

 

- Author Taneshka Kruger
Published by Taneshka Kruger

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