Cerebral malaria (CM), which kills over 3 million individuals a year, is caused by infection with Plasmodium falciparum. One of the main causes of disease symptoms is the adherence of blood cells known as platelets to the small blood vessels (microvasculature) in the brain.
Currently there is no way to detect such platelet accumulation until after the clinical signs of the disease are visible. However, a new way to detect platelet accumulation in the microvasculature of the mouse brain has now been developed by Daniel Anthony and colleagues at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
In the study, a protein (known as a single-chain antibody) that specifically binds a region of the GPIIb/IIIa receptor that is expressed only on activated platelets was attached to microparticles of iron oxide.
Using this contrast reagent, it was possible to detect by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) activated platelets in the brain of mice 6 days after they were infected with Plasmodium berghei.
At this time point after infection, clinical symptoms of the disease had not appeared and activated platelets in the brain could not be detected by conventional MRI.
These data led the authors to suggest that targeted contrast reagents similar to the one described in their study might prove useful for diagnostic, mechanistic, and therapeutic analyses.
Journal reference: A contrast agent recognizing activated platelets reveals murine cerebral malaria pathology undetectable by conventional MRI. Journal of Clinical Investigation. February 14, 2008.
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