Understanding hypnozoites is crucial in the fight against malaria, as their ability to stay hidden and then reemerge poses a significant challenge to both treatment and eradication of malaria. However, due to their inaccessible location in either human or monkey livers, uncovering the mechanisms underlying hypnozoite dormancy and reactivation has been an unresolvable challenge for scientists ever since the discovery of hypnozoites in the 1980’s.
With the grant, the researchers will use advanced imaging techniques and a unique primate model for hypnozoites to track these parasites in the liver. They will take image-guided biopsies and these biopsies will be subjected to comprehensive molecular analysis, to study the interplay between the parasite and its host environment.
The team: ‘Only by visualizing and following parasites inside the liver of the host can we understand their true, inner biology. Furthermore, from the molecular analysis we will learn which molecular processes in the parasite as well as in the host are key for the dormancy of hypnozoites.’
The role of the host in triggering hypnozoites to awaken from dormancy is still not understood. Factors such as the host’s physiological conditions, environmental changes and the specific cellular environment of the liver could play significant roles in this process.
The team: ‘Our ultimate goal is to gain a more profound understanding of the intricate interplay between the parasites and the host. Knowledge of the trigger for hypnozoite reactivation would be instrumental in developing more effective strategies for combating and ultimately eradicating malaria.’