SEP 01, 2020 8:17 AM PDT

Cell Atlas of Mosquito Immunology Reveals New Avenues for Eradicating Malaria

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Malaria is one of the biggest ongoing threats to global health — over 200 million were infected and almost half a million lost their lives as a result of this mosquito-born parasitic disease in 2018 alone. Besides controlling the populations of these blood-sucking vectors, scientists are now turning to state-of-the-art genomic approaches to stop malarial transmission in a whole new way: from inside the mosquito.

The first breakthrough in this strategy came in the form of the first-ever atlas of all mosquito immune cells, recently published in the journal Science. This effort, led by an international team of researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Umeå University in Sweden revealed rare immune cells and molecular pathways in mosquitoes that could hold the key to finally eradicating this devastating disease.

The creation of this immune map involved the analysis of over 8,500 mosquito immune cells, revealing an unprecedented glimpse into the complexity of the mosquito immune response following infection with the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite.

“We have carried out the first-ever large scale survey of the mosquito immune system, and using single-cell sequencing technology we found immune cell types and cell states that had never been seen before,” said the study’s lead author Gianmarco Raddi. “We also looked at mosquitoes that were infected with the Plasmodium parasite and for the first time we’re able to study their immune response in molecular detail, and identify which cells and pathways were involved.”

Previous studies pointed to the potential of a concept called “immune priming”, whereby the activation of the mosquito immune system to attack the parasite could limit its transmission to humans. Fascinatingly, the team also uncovered a new mosquito immune cell — the Megacyte — which could act as a molecular trigger for immune priming in mosquitoes.

Senior author Oliver Billker, speaking on the significance of this discovery said, “This is the first time a specific mosquito cell type has been implicated in regulating the control of malaria infection and is a really exciting discovery.” 

“We now need to carry out further studies to validate this and better understand these cells and their role”, Billker added.

 

 

Sources: Science, Technology Networks.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
DEC 17, 2020
Immunology
A Peanut a Day Keeps Allergies Away
DEC 17, 2020
A Peanut a Day Keeps Allergies Away
Canadian researchers have made a breakthrough for children with peanut allergies: immunotherapy that when taken daily fo ...
DEC 20, 2020
Microbiology
How Do mRNA Vaccines Work?
DEC 20, 2020
How Do mRNA Vaccines Work?
Scientist Katalin Karikó studied mRNA vaccines for years. She spent years getting grant rejections, but has now helped c ...
FEB 16, 2021
Immunology
Hugs From Immune Cells Heal Muscle
FEB 16, 2021
Hugs From Immune Cells Heal Muscle
Australian researchers have discovered a regenerative factor produced by immune cells that drives the repair and regener ...
MAR 09, 2021
Immunology
A 'Plug-and-Play' CRISPR Therapy for Flu and COVID
MAR 09, 2021
A 'Plug-and-Play' CRISPR Therapy for Flu and COVID
Researchers have developed a CRISPR treatment that could potentially treat both viruses that cause COVID-19 and influenz ...
APR 13, 2021
Immunology
Food-borne Fungus Impedes Gut Healing
APR 13, 2021
Food-borne Fungus Impedes Gut Healing
In a recent study, researchers discovered that a fungus present in cheese, processed meats, beer, and other fermented fo ...
MAY 04, 2021
Immunology
One Vaccine to Rule Them All
MAY 04, 2021
One Vaccine to Rule Them All
There are currently five variants of concern in the U.S., genetically distinct forms of the COVID-causing coronavirus th ...
Loading Comments...