The latest research found that endothelial cells in the brain play a critical role, being able to detect malaria parasite infection at an early stage.
Plasmodium falciparum infection, the deadliest of the malaria-causing parasites, results in the severe complication of cerebral malaria. Children under the age of five are most commonly affected by this type of the disease, which leads to unconsciousness and coma. Those who do survive usually experience crippling neurological aftereffects. The presence of malaria parasites in the blood can be detected by brain cells, which then causes the inflammation that underlies cerebral malaria, according to research from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC). In order to prevent neurological consequences and slow the progression of the disease, new targets for adjuvant therapy have been made possible by this discovery.
According to the new research, endothelial cells in the brain play an essential role since they can detect a malaria parasite infection at an initial stages. These are accomplished by an internal sensor, which detects the infection and sets off a series of reactions that begin with the creation of interferon-β. This pathogenic process appears to be connected with interferon--β, which is used to prevent viral replication. It then expel a signalling chemical that draws immune system cells to the brain and starts the inflammatory process.
The cause of the sensor's activation and this cell response surprised the researchers. This element is equavalent to consequence of the parasite's activity. The parasite multiplies after it enters the bloodstream and invades the host's red blood cells. In order to obtain nutrition, it digests haemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen. A chemical known as heme is created during this process and can be carried in the blood in the form of small particles that are absorbed by endothelial cells. Heme serves as an alert for the immune system when this occurs.
The next step for the researchers will be to attempt to block this sensor's activity within the endothelium cells in order to better understand how it can affect the host's reaction and, potentially, temporarily halt brain disease.