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Imaging tools to characterise migration and interaction of parasites within their host

With roughly half of the world’s population at risk, the treatment and prevention of parasitic infections remains a medical priority. Parasites typically display migratory behavior, disregard anatomical barriers and interact with their host at several levels during their life cycle. Very little is known about the biology that drives the migration and interaction of parasites inside their intermediate or definite hosts. A better understanding of this is essential to help improve the design and development of vaccines.  

Using malaria parasites as an example, LUMC researchers reasoned that imaging-based tracking of individual parasites of different native malaria species can help understand the interaction of these parasites with their host. LUMC researchers have developed imaging tools to assess the motility of live attenuated parasite vaccine formulations in human tissue.

Technology Overview:
LUMC researchers have developed  molecular imaging technology that uses a fluorescent/radioactive tracer to label parasites. Malaria parasites can be labelled either in the mosquito host or under in situ conditions.  Next to the this labelling, LUMC has developed a complementary software package that allows for quantitative analysis of parasite behaviour in tissue.

This molecular imaging technology allows for quantification of the behavioural differences between wild type parasites and radiation-, chemically-, or genetically- attenuated vaccine derivatives. Feedback from imaging these parasites provides a reference to which vaccine administration routes and future vaccine formulations can be benchmarked. The imaging technology also supports the isolation of distinct behavioural features that could be critical in interaction with the immune system.

Because the technology is based on chemistry rather than GMO technologies, it allows for the first time imaging of wild-type parasites including those species for which GMOs do not exist. In addition, the molecular imaging technology has been successfully applied to Schistosoma mansoni and Necator americanus parasites.

In addition to an established application in the field of parasites, the developed technology could also be applied to monitor other pathogens e.g. bacterial infections or colonisation models .

These technologies provide a means to image and quantify the infectious behaviour of parasites and attenuated whole-body parasite vaccines. The technologies:

  • Allow for straight forward fluorescence imaging of parasites
  • Allow for quantification of parasite migration in human tissue
  • Are suitable for clinical translation.

We are looking for partner(s) to license the technology for commercialization to and/or to fund research into refinement and clinical translation of the technology.

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Further information

Jofey Chadwick Knowledge Broker (LUMC Div. 1/2) +31-71-527 2689 +31-6-1474 7861