Yvonne Azasi

Research Interests

Cerebral malaria, a major cause of malaria deaths is characterised by the sequestration of mature Plasmodium falciparum infected erythrocytes in microvasculature of the brain. The infected erythrocytes (IEs) sequester in these vessels to avoid destruction by spleen clearance, and for optimal growth. This results in reduction in blood flow, metabolic acidosis, impaired consciousness, coma and death.

In the Rowe lab, an in vitro model of cerebral malaria has been developed involving the use of Human Brain Endothelial Cells (HBEC) and the parasite ligand responsible for the cytoadherence of the infected erythrocytes to HBEC has been identified to be encoded by a subset of group A var genes of PfEMP1. The proteins consist of an N-terminal segment, Duffy binding-like domains, cysteine rich interdomain region, C2 domain, transmembrane and an acidic terminal segment. Some of these domains are known to bind to host receptors. These are potential targets for the development of adjunctive therapies against cytoadherence in cerebral malaria.

Cerebral malaria patients are currently treated with parasite-killing anti-malarial drugs but the mortality rates are still high (13%–21%). Resistance of P. falciparum to artemisinin (a major drug), has been documented and also cytoadherence of dead parasites after anti-malarial treatment has been shown. There is the need to develop adjunctive therapies that target the fundamental pathology of IEs sequestration to supplement existing drugs, as it is non-existent at the moment and recent adjunctive therapies targeted at the pathophysiological processes associated with cerebral malaria have also failed or are yet to prove beneficial.

My research would therefore seek to investigate the molecular mechanisms of the cytoadherence, identify possible common domain(s) of the var genes up-regulated in HBEC-5i–selected parasites that could be drug targets, and develop a high throughput screening method to find bioactive molecules that could be used as an adjunctive therapy.


2012 – present

  • PhD in Immunology and Infection Research, University of Edinburgh.

2011 – 2012

  • Research Assistant at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana

2010 – 2011

  • Teaching/Research Assistant at the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Ghana

2005 – 2010

  • BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, University of Ghana