Researchers from CRESIB-IBEC improve the effectiveness of malaria treatment

Xavier Fernández-Busquets is the head of the Nanomalaria group, a sub-group of the Nanobioengineering lab (IBEC) with joint affiliation with the Centre de Recerca en Salut Internacional de Barcelona (CRESIB).  This group focus his reseach on the optimization of the nanovectors being currently developed with the objective of exploring sustained drug release strategies inside Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (pRBCs), and the improvement of the targeting agents used to direct nanovectors to pRBCs.

Dr. Xavier Fernàndez-Busquets has a background training in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He has developed his career in several research centers, among which the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Basel, USA, the Universitat de Barcelona, the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and the Barcelona Center for International Health Research.

A recent published study of this group demonstrates that an antimalarial drug (chloroquine salts) encapsulated in nanoparticles is significantly more effective when delivered in vivo than free (unencapsulated) drugs and may help to curb drug resistance.

The study, which is published in the Journal of Controlled Release, indicates that the nanoparticles are capable of recognising different Plasmodium species, making their potential as carriers for malarial drugs broader than that of other options.

Current malaria therapies require strategies capable of selectively delivering drugs to the cells infected by Plasmodium. In this study, the researchers explored the usefulness of two polymeric nanosystems, AGMA1 and ISA23, as carriers for cloroquina that selectively target the pathogen.

The study showed that both polymers bind preferentially to Plasmodium-infected red blood cells, compared to uninfected cells. Moreover, they are capable of recognising widely divergent species, such as P. falciparum and P. yoelii, malaria parasites that infect humans and mice respectively. Administration of 0.8 mg/kg of the drug chloroquine as either AGMA1 or ISA23 salts cured P yoelii-infected mice, whereas control animals treated with twice as much free drug did not survive.

“These polymers have low toxicity, high biodegradability and selectively target red blood cells infected by different species of Plasmodium,”  explains Xavier Fernàndez-Busquets, head of the Nanomalaria joint unit of IBEC/CRESIB, who led the study. “This all means that they’re extremely promising candidates as therapeutic antimalarials.”

Elena Escubedo (Universitat de Barcelona)


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