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The Wellcome Trust announced that Prof Chris Newbold has been given a Senior Investigator Award. These highly competitive awards provide funding for scientists who have an excellent track record and are in an established academic post. They offer the flexibility and time to enable them to tackle the most important questions in their field. Prof Newbold's research focuses on malaria virulence.

Credit: Angela Lee

From the RDM Image Competition 2015. 

This image shows a population of cultured macrophages (Raw 264.7) stained for phospholipids (red) and neutral lipid droplets (green), which are markers of macrophage foam cell formation in atherosclerosis. To recapitulate the in vivo course of macrophages in atherosclerotic plague formation, the cells were treated with oxidized LDL for 24 hours prior to imaging. The accumulation of macrophage foam cells in atherosclerotic lesions is associated with both initiation and progression of this disease. By quantifying the phospholipids and neutral lipid droplets using high-throughput imaging system, potential drug target or gene pathway may be identified.
Macrophage foam cell formation

The expression of some multigene families is key to malaria virulence. The prime example is the var gene family of Plasmodium falciparum whose protein products are expressed on the surface of infected red cells, undergo mutually exclusive expression and evade host immunity by transcriptional switches. They also mediate binding to host cell receptors, a crucial virulence determinant and are known to highly polymorphic. In contrast, the Plasmodium interspersed repeat (pir) gene family is the only multi-gene family present in all Plasmodium genomes so far sequenced, has no definitive function assigned but has recently been strongly associated with virulence in a rodent model. Prof Newbold has recently developed novel algorithms that enable very accurately to assemble full length var and pir gene repertoires from Illumina reads from 1000s of field isolates. He is therefore in a unique position to analyse these gene families in terms of evolution, function, pathogenesis and role in immunity and that is the basis of his Senior Investigator Award.

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