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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Exosomes: new intercellular communicators and their use as therapeutic agents in untreated parasitic diseases

Lead Researcher:
Hernando A. del Portillo Obando

Research Centre:
Centro de Investigación en Salud Internacional de Barcelona (CRESIB).


Hernando A. del Portillo ObandoExosomes are nano-vesicles measuring 30-100 nm composed of two lipid layers and generated by the endocytosis of plasmatic membrane segments. It is surprising that until recently exosomes were practically unknown, and were thought to be subproducts of cell metabolism. This perception has changed radically, given their newly discovered role as mediators involved in transmitting biological signals, as well as their potential in diagnostics and new therapeutic strategies in cancer and other diseases, including parasitic ones. In this proposal we hypothesise that exosomes deriving from untreated diseases caused by three human parasites, malaria vivax, Chagas and fascioliasis, act as cell intercommunicators facilitating the establishment of infections. Moreover, parasitic proteins in these exosomes will identify new antigens for vaccinations, and the use of exosomes will make it possible to create a new platform of nanovaccines against the aforementioned parasites.

Researcher's web address:

Hernando A. del Portillo Obando

He studied molecular parasitology at the University of Georgia (USA), where he received his doctorate. He then went on to two postdoctoral visits in New York University Medical Centre, NYU (USA) and the Pasteur Institute (France), where he specialised in the molecular biology of malaria. From France he moved to Brazil as Assistant Professor and then Tenured Professor in the Parasitology Department of the University of Sao Paulo, where he consolidated an inter-disciplinary team for the study of human malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax. The cornerstones of this research were (1) discovery of the largest family with a multi-gene variant in this species, the vir genes, which seem to participate in a new evasion mechanism from human immunological response, and (2) the discovery that exosomes derived from reticulocytes (rex) of infections may be used as new platform and vaccine against P. vivax. He joined the CRESIB as ICREA Research Professor in 2007 with the specific aim of elucidating the molecular bases of this immune evasion mechanism, and to develop a vaccine against this parasite. Recently he created INNOVEX THERAPEUTICS S.L., the first Spanish spin-off dedicated to the research and use of exosomes and extracellular vesicles as new platforms for vaccines and diagnostic tools.

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