Student Awarded

Esemu Livo Forgu

Esemu Livo Forgu

Country: Cameroon

Project Title: The effects of HIV-1 infection on microRNA important for the trans-placenta transfer of maternal antibodies

Institution: The Biotechnology Centre, University of Yaoundé I

Even when the neonate escapes HIV infection, the HIV infected maternal–fetus interface may present an altered environment for fetal growth and development. A major consequence of this alteration is increased morbidity and mortality seen in these infants during their postnatal life. Maternal antibody transfer to the fetus is an important mechanism that is modulated in HIV positive pregnant women however, the role of miroRNA in the modulation of this process has not been investigated in HIV positive women. We therefore hypothesize that specific miRNA following (a) exposure to HIV during pregnancy will reduce placental FcRn synthesis and (b) this reduction in FcRn levels we predict will reduce anti-malaria antibody transplacental transfer to the newborn. In a pilot case-control study we intend to investigate the expression levels of pregnancy-specific microRNA in plasma and placenta 30 HIV positive and 30 HIV negative pregnant women. This study will provide key information on how HIV infection during pregnancy modulates the transplacental transfer of antibody by modulating placental and plasma miRNAs. If successful, potential biomarkers useful to spot low transplacental transfer of antibodies to malaria antigens will be identified.

Report Back – Skills Gained

Visit to Dr Tiemessen’s lab, Cell Biology Laboratory at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa

  • miRNA Extraction
  • Greater understanding of PCRs
  • Shadowing NGS experiments run by Sequencing facility expert
  • miRNA sequenced related bioinformatics and data analyses
  • Self development as a Scientist
  • General Immunology and Malaria, TB and HIV specific Immunology
  • Teamwork

African Supervisor

Rose Leke

Rose Leke

African Host Country: Cameroon

Institution: The Biotechnology Centre, University of Yaoundé I

Laboratory: Immunology Laboratory

The Immunology laboratory is located at the Biotechnology Centre of Nkolbisson (University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon), a specialized research unit founded in 1986 and located in Nkolbisson some 6 km to the South West of the Yaoundé 1 University Campus. The laboratory was created in 1991 by Prof Rose Leke with support from NIAID and the University of Yaounde I. Her initial goal was to provide basic information about the acquisition of immunity to malaria that will contribute to vaccine development and to the understanding of immunity to malaria during pregnancy. Now however, with more collaboration, the goal spans other infectious disease agents and communicable diseases. The Immunology laboratory is also very active in capacity building and has trained about 50 MDs and over 2 dozen graduate students with other competent institutions.

International Supervisor

Carline Tiemessen

Caroline Tiemessen

International Host Country: South Africa

Institution: National Institute of Communicable Diseases

Laboratory: Cell Biology Laboratory

A major focus of this research group is the study of natural resistance models which include maternal-infant HIV-1 transmission for understanding protective immunity to HIV-1, and long term nonprogressors and elite controllers to understand natural attenuation of disease progression. A more recent focus of research efforts is in the field of paediatric HIV cure. This encompasses studies of the viral reservoir and host biomarkers in the context of very early antiretroviral treatment of infants as part of the LEOPARD clinical trial being conducted in Johannesburg, and a detailed exploration of the recent case of the HIV-infected South African child in long-term remission. This case offers a unique opportunity to find clues as to what might make long-term remission possible for more individuals, and could help inform the search for the more challenging goal of a complete cure for HIV.