Hernando A. del Portillo

Institut d’Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol & Institut de Salut Global Barcelona

Life & Medical Sciences

I studied at the University of Georgia where I received my PhD in 1985 followed by two WHO-postdoctoral trainings at the New York University Medical Centre and the Institut Pasteur where I specialized in molecular biology of malaria.  Next, I consolidated an interdisciplinary malaria research group at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  In 1990, I did a sabattical year at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), University of Heidelberg. In 2007, I became an ICREA Research Professor and joined the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, and in 2016 co-joined the Institut d’Investigació Germans Trias i Pujol. Cornerstones of this research activity are the discovery of the largest multigene virulent family of human malaria parasites and the discovery that reticulocyte-derived exosomes from infections act as intercellular communicators and can be used as a novel vaccine against malaria.

Research interests

My main research area is the biology of Plasmodium vivax, a neglected human malaria parasite responsible for millions of yearly clinical cases. We are presently looking for mechanistic insights of the role of reticulocyte-derived exosomes, nanovesicles of endocytic origin, in signalling the spleen and the bone marrow to unveil molecular basis of anaemia and splenomegaly and to use this information in rationale vaccine development.  To pursue spleen studies,  we are implementing the usage of humanized mouse models and microfluidic approaches. In addition, we are exploring the use of exosomes as novel vaccines and biomarkers in vivax malaria aimed for elimination. Last, we are immortalizing human hematopoietic stem cells to develop a continuous in vitro culture system for blood stages of this malaria species, a major technological key-gap to advance studies of this neglected human malaria.

Selected publications

– Baro B, Deroost K, Raiol T, Brito M, Almeida ACG, de Menezes-Neto A, Figueiredo EFG, Alencar A, Leitao R, Val F, Monteiro W, Oliveira A, del Pilar AM, Fernandez-Becerra C, Lacerda MV & del Portillo HA 2017, ‘Plasmodium vivax gametocytes in the bone marrow of an acute malaria patient and changes in the erythroid miRNA profile’, Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases, 11, 4, e0005365.

– De Niz M, Burda PC, Kaiser G, Del Portillo HA, Spielmann T, Frischknecht F & Heussler VT 2017, ‘Progress in imaging methods: insights gained into Plasmodium biology‘, Nat Rev Microbiol., 15(1):37-54.

– Reiner AT, Witwer KW, van Balkom BWM, de Beer J, Brodie C, Corteling RL, Gabrielsson S, Gimona M, Ibrahim AG, de Kleijn D, Lai CP, Lotvall J, del Portillo HA et al., 2017, ‘Concise Review: Developing Best-Practice Models for the Therapeutic Use of Extracellular Vesicles’, Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 6, 8.

– Requena P, Arévalo Herrera M, Menegon M, Martínez Espinosa FE, Padilla N, Bôtto Menezes C, Malheiro A, Hans D, Castellanos ME, Robinson L, Samol P, Kochar S, Kochar SK, Kochar DK, Desai M, Sanz S, Quintó LI, Mayor A, Rogerson S, Mueller I, Severini C, Del Portillo HA, Bardají A, Chitnis CC, Menéndez C & Dobaño C 2017, ‘Naturally Acquired Binding-Inhibitory Antibodies to Plasmodium vivax Duffy Binding Protein in Pregnant Women Are Associated with Higher Birth Weight in a Multicenter Study‘, Frontiers in immunology, 8, pp. 163.

Selected research activities

– Chair Scientific Committee – International Conference on Plasmodium vivax Research 2017. Manaus, Brazil.

– Organizer: Workshop on Isolation and characterization of Extracellular Vesicles obtained from different biological fluids. IGTP, Badalona, Spain.

– Discussant: Understanding the Liver Stage Biology of Malaria to Enable and Accelerate the Development of a Highly Efficacious Vaccine. NIAID, Rockville, USA.

– Coordinator Workshop on Bioinformatic tools to study exosomes´effects. Dério, Spain.