The scientists: Dr. Kristina Wickham, a postdoctoral researcher working on the research team led by Professor Rosemary Rochford, at SUNY Upstate Medical University has joined the Tres Cantos Open Lab to progress a project which aims to develop a liver stage mouse model for Plasmodium falciparum. Rosemary Rochford, the Vice President for Research at SUNY Upstate and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, is a noted expert in the field of endemic Burkitt's lymphoma (eBL) and the role Epstein-Barr virus and co-factors including holoendemic malaria have in the emergence of eBL. The Rochford lab has developed and validated a humanized SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency) model to test the hemolytic toxicity of anti-malarial drugs in mice engrafted with glucose-6-phosphate deficient human red blood cells, which is supported with funding from the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the U.S. Department of Defense.
The sponsor: With the distinction of being the only academic medical center in Central New York, the core mission of SUNY Upstate Medical University is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care. Upstate Medical University's educational mission is anchored by its four colleges — Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions and Graduate Studies (biomedical sciences). As a biomedical research enterprise, Upstate focuses on the most prevalent human diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, nervous system disorders, vision, and infectious diseases. The quest for treatments and cures is built upon expertise in structural, molecular and systems biology. Upstate also offers many clinical trials for patients. The Upstate University Health System serves 1.8 million people, often the most seriously ill and injured, and includes Upstate University Hospital; Upstate University Hospital at Community Campus; Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital, and numerous satellite sites.
Foundation funding: The Foundation is providing £ 59,333 in support of this research.
GSK’s contribution: GSK is providing in-kind contribution including access to the insectary with Plasmodium falciparum-infected mosquitoes and Biosafety Level 3 facilities, and staff support and expertise in humanized mouse models for malaria.
Project Description: P. falciparum is the deadliest of the five parasite species that cause malaria in humans. A striking limitation of current malaria research is the lack of adequate preclinical animal models that can directly support the exoerythrocytic phase of P. falciparum infection. This impedes the further understanding of Plasmodium biology as well as development and interrogation of antimalarial drugs. Previous work by the Rochford lab has demonstrated that tumors retaining hepatocyte-like characteristics can be established in NOD (non-obese diabetic)/SCID mice with minimal technical manipulation, circumventing significant challenges encountered by other humanized mouse models for P. falciparum liver stage infection.
During her time in the Open Lab, Kristina will investigate the capability of these “pseudo-livers” to reproduce a biologically relevant P. falciparum infection. This pseudo-liver model would significantly advance the capacity to directly test the efficacy of antimalarial compounds in the context of human liver stage P. falciparum infection.