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Gates Grants Fund Malaria Modeling Device, Culture System

Microfluid device (Draper Lab)

Microfluid device (Draper Lab)

The University of South Florida in Tampa received $5.45 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research on devices related to malaria. The first grant is to create advanced devices that mimic the human liver to better study the life cycle of the malaria parasite. The second grant aims to develop a long-term continuous culture system for the malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax).

The grant to develop a device that mimics the human liver will focus particularly on the stage in the liver where the disease may be most vulnerable to attack. The university says these human models could help accelerate the discovery of new drugs or even vaccines for P. vivax and P. falciparum, the two most common forms of malaria becoming more resistant to current therapies.

USF will collaborate on the projects with Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To create new models to mimic human body conditions in which malaria parasites replicate, the researchers are using Draper’s prototype microfluidic device technology.  The microfluidic device, pictured right, consists of microscope slide-sized unit containing chambers through which fluid flow is maintained by a micro-pump.

The device is designed to support complex tissue growth, allowing liver or blood vessel cells to grow in three dimensions while experiencing physiologically relevant forces, rather than on the static two-dimensional surface of a petri dish.  The technology may also prove useful for screening large volumes of potential anti-malarial agents and evaluating their effectiveness.

Read more: Gates Foundation Grants $50M for New Insecticides

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