The Stem Cell Revolution Revealing Protozoan Parasites' Secrets and Paving the Way towards Vaccine Development

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Abstract

Protozoan infections are leading causes of morbidity and mortality in humans and some of the most important neglected diseases in the world. Despite relentless efforts devoted to vaccine and drug development, adequate tools to treat and prevent most of these diseases are still lacking. One of the greatest hurdles is the lack of understanding of host-parasite interactions. This gap in our knowledge comes from the fact that these parasites have complex life cycles, during which they infect a variety of specific cell types that are difficult to access or model in vitro. Even in those cases when host cells are readily available, these are generally terminally differentiated and difficult or impossible to manipulate genetically, which prevents assessing the role of human factors in these diseases. The advent of stem cell technology has opened exciting new possibilities to advance our knowledge in this field. The capacity to culture Embryonic Stem Cells, derive Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from people and the development of protocols for differentiation into an ever-increasing variety of cell types and organoids, together with advances in genome editing, represent a huge resource to finally crack the mysteries protozoan parasites hold and unveil novel targets for prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVaccines
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

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