Identification of malaria parasite entry receptors

Identification of malaria parasite entry receptors

Project details

Being an obligate intracellular parasite, malaria parasites have to invade red blood cells in order to survive within the human host. One essential step within invasion is the recognition of human red blood cells by malaria parasites, a process involving an intimate interaction between parasite adhesins and red blood cell receptors. 

Our lab is interested in identifying novel parasite adhesins involved in red blood cell recognition and how they function in the dynamic process of parasite entry. This project will involve identification of their receptors and understanding their structure-function relationships. We will use a wide range of biochemical, structural and molecular techniques. We can exploit this crucial information to rationally design a potential vaccine to prevent malaria parasite invasion into human red blood cells.

About our research group

Malaria is one of the most widespread parasitic diseases in the world with more than 40 per cent of humans under the risk of contracting this devastating disease. Human malaria is caused by six species of Plasmodium parasites, of which Plasmodium falciparum represents the most common and deadliest form.

We have been working to understand how P. falciparum causes disease and invades the human red blood cell so that we can use this pivotal information to develop a vaccine. Our research seeks a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms utilised by malaria parasites to invade red blood cells, and of parasite evasion strategies to circumvent human immune responses.



Professor Alan Cowman

Alan Cowman standing in a laboratory
Laboratory Head; Deputy Director, Science Strategy

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