Innovations

Chlamydomonas, seen here at UC San Diego, may have a role in treating malaria, and can be grown in ponds anywhere in the world.

Chlamydomonas, seen here at UC San Diego, may have a role in treating malaria, and can be grown in ponds anywhere in the world. Photo: SD-CAB

Potential Malarial Vaccine from Algae

May 17, 2012, by Kim McDonald
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have succeeded in engineering algae to produce potential candidates for a vaccine that would prevent transmission of the parasite that causes malaria, an achievement that could pave the way for the development of an inexpensive way to protect billions of people from one of the world’s most prevalent and debilitating diseases.

The use of algae to produce malaria proteins that elicited antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum in laboratory mice and prevented malaria transmission was published May 16 in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE. The development resulted from an unusual interdisciplinary collaboration between two groups of biologists at UC San Diego – one from the Division of Biological Sciences and San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, which had been engineering algae to produce bio-products and biofuels, and another from the Center for Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine that is working to develop ways to diagnose, prevent and treat malaria.

“Malaria is caused by a parasite that makes complex proteins, but for whatever reason this parasite doesn’t put sugars on those proteins,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research effort. “If you have a protein covered with sugars and you inject it into somebody as a vaccine, the tendency is to make antibodies against the sugars, not the amino acid backbone of the protein from the invading organism you want to inhibit. Researchers have made vaccines without these sugars in bacteria and then tried to refold them into the correct three-dimensional configuration, but that’s an expensive proposition and it doesn’t work very well.”

Mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles transmit the protozoan that causes malaria.

Mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles transmit the protozoan that causes malaria. Photo: Wikimedia

Instead, the biologists looked to produce their proteins with the help of an edible green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, used widely in research laboratories as a genetic model organism, much like the fruit fly Drosophila and the bacterium E. coli. Two years ago, a UC San Diego team of biologists headed by Mayfield, who is also the director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, a research consortium seeking to develop transportation fuels from algae, published a landmark study demonstrating that many complex human therapeutic proteins, such as monoclonal antibodies and growth hormones, could be produced by Chlamydomonas.

That got James Gregory, a postdoctoral researcher in Mayfield’s laboratory, wondering if a complex protein to protect against the malarial parasite could also be produced by Chlamydomonas. Two billion people live in regions where malaria is present, making the delivery of a malarial vaccine a costly and logistically difficult proposition, especially when that vaccine is expensive to produce. So the UC San Diego biologists set out to determine if this alga, an organism that can produce complex proteins very cheaply, could produce malaria proteins that would inhibit infections from malaria.

Collaborating with Joseph Vinetz, a professor of medicine at UC San Diego and a leading expert in tropical diseases who has been working on developing vaccines against malaria, the researchers showed that the proteins produced by the algae, when injected into laboratory mice, made antibodies that blocked malaria transmission from mosquitoes.

The scientists, who filed a patent application on their discovery, said the next steps are to see if these algae proteins work to protect humans from malaria and then to determine if they can modify the proteins to elicit the same antibody response when the algae are eaten rather than injected.

Go to HOME Page

Copyright ©2010-2012 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
Natural carotenoid specialists Piveg Inc., with production facilities based in Celaya, Central Mexico, has announced immediate availability of natural astaxanthin materia...
University of Adelaide researchers are using nanotechnology and the fossils of diatoms to develop a novel chemical-free and resistance-free way of protecting stored grain...
Algae.Tec Ltd has received its first purchase order from Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Limited (RIIHL), in connection with the arrangements announced on Ja...
Valensa International and Contract Biotics have announced that Contract Biotics has started construction of an additional six acres of algae production units at the compa...
One of 12 winners of the 2014 Lexus Design Award, the Ooho algae balloon was created by three London-based designers to contribute a solution to the rising number of plas...
Algae is being discussed at the heart of EXPO Milano 2015, the international event that has existed since 1851, spawning world shaping themes and icons, such as the Eiffe...
Students from three Arizona universities will demonstrate their algae research projects at an Innovation Showcase May 1, in Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Fitness C...
A team of six University of Calgary researchers has been awarded funding for their project, Cost Effective Biotechnology for Carbon Capture and Re-Use, based on the conce...
Santa Fe Community College has been awarded a $50,000, SEED Infrastructure Grant from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), for commercial ...
Algal oil represents one of the significant segments within the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) ingredients market. Specifically, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is ...
Although the use of whole microalgae in animal diets has long been studied, the 
de-fatted biomass of microalgal species, derived from biofuel production research, has on...
A new, outdoor system at the University of Dayton Research Institute has been producing a high volume of algae since its installation in the summer of 2013, even through ...
A University of New South Wales (UNSW)-led team of researchers has discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird qua...
The Guardian reports that Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), Canada-based Solarvest has created an inventive system utilizing a specific algal strain to grow and produce EPA ...
Jamie Radford writes in the Illawarra Mercury that Pia Winberg, from the University of Wollongong, believes that the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia (NSW) is in...
Gilbert, AZ-based Heliae has announced a partnership with Sincere Corporation, a Japanese waste management and recycling company, to form a joint venture and develop a co...
Kyae Mone Win reports in the Myanmar Times that spirulina has been harvested from Twin Daung lake in Sagaing’s Bu Ta Lin township for over a decade, but climate change an...
Perth, Western Australia-based Algae.Tec Limited has announced that the Reliance Group has converted the first tranche of options following the positive progress achieved...