Insights into Plasmodium falciparum Interactions with the Human Placenta

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Investigator: Susan J. Fisher, PhD
Sponsor: Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource (MR4)

Location(s): United States

Description

The majority of pregnant women in malaria-endemic regions contract placental malaria (PM) at some point during gestation. PM is a severe form of malaria, leading to maternal complications and negatively affecting the survival and growth of the fetus. PM is defined as (1) the accumulation of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (iRBCs) in the maternal blood spaces of the placenta, and (2) the cytoadherence of iRBCs to placental cells, such as syncytiotrophoblasts (STBs) that cover the chorionic villi and face the intervillous space where maternal blood circulates. Our work will establish experimental systems for studying PM throughout human gestation and aid the malaria field in identifying potential drug and vaccine targets for treating this condition.

The results of the proposed experiments will substantially advance our understanding of the ligand-receptor molecular interactions between Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (iRBCs) and early gestation human placental tissue. As part of our proposed experiments, we will develop novel experimental models that will be useful to other researchers interested in studying placental malaria throughout human gestation. Our proposed work will realistically aid the malaria field in identifying potential drug and vaccine targets.