Blaise Dondji (Biological Sciences)
Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by the parasitic protozoan Leishmania. The disease is present in 88 countries, with 350 million people at risk and 12 million patients. There are three main clinical types of the disease: cutaneous, mucocutaneous, and visceral leishmaniasis. About twenty species of Leishmania cause human diseases. Leishmania major was used in my studies. It causes cutaneous disease in Africa and the Middle East and symptoms include facial lesions. Amphotericin B (Amp B) is the only FDA approved treatment for leishmaniasis in the US and is toxic to patients. Consequently, there is an urgent need for new compounds that are active against Leishmania, non-toxic or less toxic, and affordable. In my contribution to this ongoing drug discovery project, I am working towards the identification of candidate compounds that have higher activity levels against Leishmania parasites and have no or less toxicity. To evaluate the anti-Leishmania activities of bicyclic lactam compounds, I performed in vitro assays. Amp B served as the positive control with expected anti-Leishmania activity, while dimethyl sulfoxide served as the negative control as it is an effective solvent. Twenty µL of Alamar blue, which is a dye that is used to assess cell viability, is added to each well. The dye turns from red to blue when cells die, so wells with compounds that are active will appear more blue than red after incubation and exhibit lower optical density levels once read with a spectrophotometer. Preliminary findings indicate compounds with activity levels comparable to Amp B.
Keywords: Leishmania, Leishmaniasis, Drug Development