Diana Hansen-Projects

Diana Hansen-Projects


Super Content: 
Dr Diana Hansen and Professor Alan Cowman

Researchers at the Institute have received new funding to tackle malaria and dengue fever in the Asia Pacific region.

Development of B cell responses to malaria

Despite constant exposure to Plasmodium parasites, immunity to malaria takes many years to develop for individuals living in endemic areas. This form of protection is not sterilising but prevents clinical episodes by substantially reducing parasitaemia. Naturally acquired immunity is known to require antibody responses. The acquisition of antibody-mediated immunity requires generation of high-affinity antibody-secreting cells and memory B cells, a process that is facilitated by T follicular helper cells in secondary lymphoid organs.

Using infection models as well as field studies in malaria endemic areas we are investigating the how P. falciparum and P. vivax infections influence these responses and the immunological and molecular factors that modulate the outcome to these processes.

Scientific illustration
The same inflammatory processes that participate in the induction of severe malaria have a detrimental effect in the development of protective immunity by inhibiting the differentiation of T follicular helper cells required for effective antibody responses to infection.

Project resource: EurekAlert! news story 

Identification of effector mechanisms and antigenic targets of naturally acquired immunity to malaria

Antibodies against blood forms of the Plasmodium parasite are thought to play an important role in protective immunity. However, the specific antigens recognized by naturally acquired antibodies from protected individuals are unknown. Obtaining this information is essential to identify key antigens for new vaccine combinations and constitutes a critical validation step prior to further development.

Our team is using samples from field studies conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta, Indonesia to identify immunological parameters and antigenic targets associated with reduced risk to re-infection and symptomatic disease. Multiplex cytometric arrays together with in vitro functional assays will reveal effector mechanisms by which antibodies control parasitemia. 

Project resourceA Seattle perspective of DFAT as a funder

Identification of cellular and molecular pathways predisposing to severe dengue fever

Typical symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of fever accompanied by headache, muscle pains, rash, cough, vomiting and haemorrhagic manifestations. Hospitalisation may be required depending on signs of severity such as dehydration, bleeding or comorbidities. 

There is no specific treatment for dengue, and care is mainly supportive. To date, there is no validated way of identifying which patients will progress to severe disease, meaning that in endemic areas, health facilities are often overwhelmed with patients admitted for inpatient observation, costing millions of dollars to health systems. 

To address this issue, this project undertakes a comprehensive immunological and transcriptional analysis of individuals with mild versus severe dengue fever recruited at local hospitals in different regions of Indonesia. 

The project will uncover key mechanisms involved in progression towards severe disease after initial patient presentation.