Call edition 2012
A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.
The research carried out by Eva Acosta Rodriguez provides a highly significant contribution to our understanding of Chagas’ disease, which is caused by the pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi. This dreaded tropical disease appears in the form of chronic heart problems and damage to specific muscular tissues. To date, there is no effective vaccine against this parasite. The knowledge gained in the course of this research work provides a crucial contribution to the successful design of a vaccine to combat this parasite. The author has studied the way in which the immune system reacts to an infection caused by Trypanosoma; more specifically, molecular biological research was carried out to discover among other things which cytokines and transcription factors play a crucial role in defence mechanisms. The research also provides an insight into potential mechanisms in the building of an immunological memory for defence against the parasite. For example, it is demonstrated that the cytokine interleukin-4 is able to increase the survival of B lymphocytes and to prevent the differentiation of these cells into plasma cells while their differentiation into memory cells is promoted. This immunological memory is an important basis for vaccine development, since a ‘memory’ allows a new attack of the same infection to be combated more swifter and effectively. During this research, additional important molecules (Blimp-1 and galectin-3) were found that prove to be key molecules in the differentiation of B lymphocytes. Manipulation of these key molecules (such as interleukin-4, galectin-3, and so on) is a potential strategy for improving immunological defence against Trypanosoma cruzi. Without doubt, Eva Acosta-Rodriguez’s work, which may be regarded as outstanding scientific research in the immunological field, will form a good basis for the development of future vaccines against tropical parasites.
report by Prof. Dr. M. Maras, Department of Biology, Antwerp University, Belgium