On World Malaria Day 25 April, we acknowledge the contributions of QIMR Berghofer scientists and laboratory groups, who are dedicated in the pursuit to reduce suffering and death from one of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Dr Megan Soon, a Research Officer in the Human Malaria Immunology Group at QIMR Berghofer, led by Dr Michelle Boyle, dedicated her PhD project to better understanding the key functional mechanisms that promote the generation of protective antibodies in human patients.
In spite of the huge global disease burden malaria poses, an effective vaccine remains elusive. Dr Soon explained that vaccines rely on how well the human immune system remembers to respond to a pathogen when the body re-encounters it.
“Unfortunately, many diseases like malaria still do not have an effective vaccine. The biggest gap to this challenge is our limited understanding of how the immune system develops memory in different diseases,” Dr Soon said.
Through her PhD project, Dr Soon was able to bridge this gap by mapping the full development of memory responses in specific immune cells – CD4+ T cells – key immune mediators in malaria.
Using cutting-edge technology known as single-cell RNA sequencing, she has identified a number of potential gene targets to help boost memory responses in malaria, and her work in mapping gene expression changes in CD4+ T cells is being shared with other researchers to inform the global research effort in malaria immunology and other diseases.
We are grateful to researchers like Dr Soon, who are dedicated in their pursuit to better understand the disease that claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year, and are continuing the legacy of Major Josephine Mackerras, whose pioneering research paved the way for future generations of malaria researchers at QIMR Berghofer and around the world.