August 15, 2014
“Fingerprinting Complex T Cell Responses to Combat Malaria Infection”
|Sean Murphy, MD, PhD
Department of Laboratory Medicine
University of Washington Medical Center
Malaria parasites kill nearly one million people a year, mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite 100 years of research on the Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria, there are no licensed vaccines that prevent this disease.
Our laboratory studies the complex immune responses that occur in the setting of natural and experimental malaria infections. One experimental approach, immunization with attenuated malaria sporozoites, generates protective immune responses that depend on CD8 T cells.
However, the specific antigenic determinants remain poorly understood. Relatively few T cell epitopes are defined and until recently, high-throughput methods for antigen identification were unavailable. Our laboratory pioneered the use of minigene library-based T cell screening of poly-specific T cell repertoires induced by Plasmodium sporozoites.
We are working to identify and study T cell antigens in animal models and develop multi-component subunit vaccines capable of inducing broadly protective T cell responses. Such approaches may accelerate development of effective vaccines against malaria and may also have important implications for other human and livestock infectious and autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Murphy is Assistant Professor of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington. He is Assistant Director of the clinical microbiology laboratory in Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center, which provides testing for infectious diseases. Dr. Murphy is also a clinical investigator with the Malaria Clinical Trials Center at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. He is an Iowa State University graduate: B.S. with Honors in Microbiology, 1999.