ICVS researchers develop technology to study cerebral malaria

A team of researchers from the ICVS of the Medical School of the University of Minho has developed a new technology that makes it possible to study malaria in human brains, in the laboratory, using brain organoids.

The work published in the international journal Cells, with Ana Rita Pedrosa as first author,  describes a new technology that allows the study of cerebral malaria in humans in the laboratory. A pioneering technology that uses human brain organoids to replicate in the laboratory the complex phenomenon of the impact of malaria parasite infection on the human brain. Until now, there was no laboratory cell model that allowed studying the infection in the human brain and the studies carried out are carried out retrospectively or post-mortem. Taking advantage of state-of-the-art technology in organoids, scientists are able to use stem cells to produce small three-dimensional cellular structures in the laboratory that reconstruct the human brain in great detail, mini-brains.

Pedro Ferreira, one of the researchers from the ICVS team, explains that “with this revolutionary contribution it will be possible to develop therapies that block the severity of malaria”, contributing to “reducing the level of infant mortality caused by one of the deadliest diseases on the planet”.

“The clinical manifestation of malaria at the cerebral level is the main responsible for its severity, which has repercussions on the levels of mortality and morbidity of the disease. Even with treatment, 15-20% of cases are fatal”, he says.