Azam Bolhassani

Pasteur Institute of Iran (IPI), Teheran, Tehrān, Iran

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Publications (29)71.32 Total impact

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  • Azam Bolhassani, Afshin Khavari, S Zahra Bathaie
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    ABSTRACT: Saffron, a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, is rich in carotenoids. Two main natural carotenoids of saffron, crocin and crocetin, are responsible for its color. Preclinical studies have shown that dietary intake of some carotenoids have potent anti-tumor effects both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting their potential preventive and/or therapeutic roles in several tissues. The reports represent that the use of carotenoids without the potential for conversion to vitamin A may provide further protection and avoid toxicity. The mechanisms underlying cancer chemo-preventive activities of carotenoids include modulation of carcinogen metabolism, regulation of cell growth and cell cycle progression, inhibition of cell proliferation, anti-oxidant activity, immune modulation, enhancement of cell differentiation, stimulation of cell-to-cell gap junction communication, apoptosis and retinoid-dependent signaling. Taken together, different hypotheses for the antitumor actions of saffron and its components have been proposed such as a) the inhibitory effect on cellular DNA and RNA synthesis, but not on protein synthesis; b) the inhibitory effect on free radical chain reactions; c) the metabolic conversion of naturally occurring carotenoids to retinoids; d) the interaction of carotenoids with topoisomerase II, an enzyme involved in cellular DNA-protein interaction. Furthermore, the immunomodulatory activity of saffron was studied on driving toward Th1 and Th2 limbs of the immune system. In this mini-review, we briefly describe biochemical and immunological activities and chemo-preventive properties of saffron and natural carotenoids as an anticancer drug.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 11/2013; · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There are more than 4000 natural and synthetic molecules structurally and/or functionally related to vitamin A. Retinoids are a class of these compounds that are structurally associated to vitamin A. The retinoids have a wide spectrum of functions. Retinoic acid, which is the active metabolite of retinol, regulates a wide range of biological processes including development, differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. It suppresses carcinogenesis in tumorigenic animal models for the skin, oral, lung, breast, bladder, ovarian and prostate. It is important how major retinoids may act in cancer treatment or prevention. The reports have indicated that lower levels of vitamin A in humans may be associated with relative type 1 cytokine dominance and a higher proportion of NK cells. In addition, very low vitamin A levels would be undesirable explaining the essential role of vitamin A in epithelial and general cell maturation and function. However, the cytokine shifts associated with moderately low levels of vitamin A may be in some ways beneficial in an environment where HIV infection, M. tuberculosis infection, or other type 1 infections are highly prevalent and/or when acquired immunity is cooperated. In this review, we intend to describe the biochemical and immunological functions of retinoids against cancer.
    International immunopharmacology 11/2013; · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nanocarriers with various compositions and biological properties have been extensively applied for in vitro/in vivo drug and gene delivery. The family of nanocarriers includes polymeric nanoparticles, lipid-based carriers (liposomes / micelles), dendrimers, carbon nanotubes, and gold nanoparticles (nanoshells / nanocages). Among different delivery systems, polymeric carriers have several properties such as: easy to synthesize, inexpensive, biocompatible, biodegradable, non-immunogenic, non-toxic, and water soluble. In addition, cationic polymers seem to produce more stable complexes led to a more protection during cellular trafficking than cationic lipids. Nanoparticles often show significant adjuvant effects in vaccine delivery since they may be easily taken up by antigen presenting cells (APCs). Natural polymers such as polysaccharides and synthetic polymers have demonstrated great potential to form vaccine nanoparticles. The development of new adjuvants or delivery systems for DNA and protein immunization is an expanding research field. This review describes polymeric carriers especially PLGA, chitosan, and PEI as vaccine delivery systems.
    Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics. 10/2013; 10(2).
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract The attenuated or non-pathogenic live vectors have been evolved specifically to deliver DNA into cells as efficient delivery tools in gene therapy. Recently, a non-pathogenic protozoan, Leishmania tarentolae (L.tar) has attracted a great attention. In current study, we used Leishmania expression system (LEXSY) for stable expression of HPV16 E7 linked to different mini-chaperones [N-/C-terminal of gp96] and compared their immunogenicity and protective effects in C57BL/6 mice against TC-1 challenge. TC-1 murine model is primary C57BL/6 mice lung epithelial cells co-transformed with HPV16 E6, HPV16 E7 and ras oncogenes. Our results showed that subcutaneous administration of mice with both the recombinant L.tar-E7-NT (gp96) and L.tar-E7-CT (gp96) led to enhance the levels of IFN-γ and also IgG2a before and after challenge with TC-1. Furthermore, L.tar-E7-CT (gp96) live vaccine indicated significant protective effects as compared to control groups as well as group vaccinated with L.tar-E7. Indeed, the recombinant live vector is capable of eliciting effective humoral and cellular immune responses in mice, but however, further studies are required to increase their efficacy.
    Drug Delivery 06/2013; · 2.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a vector-borne disease affecting humans and domestic animals that constitutes a serious public health problem in many countries. Although many antigens have been examined so far as protein- or DNA-based vaccines, none of them conferred complete long-term protection. The use of the lizard non-pathogenic to humans Leishmania (L.) tarentolae species as a live vaccine vector to deliver specific Leishmania antigens is a recent approach that needs to be explored further. In this study, we evaluated the effectiveness of live vaccination in protecting BALB/c mice against L. infantum infection using prime-boost regimens, namely Live/Live and DNA/Live. As a live vaccine, we used recombinant L. tarentolae expressing the L. donovani A2 antigen along with cysteine proteinases (CPA and CPB without its unusual C-terminal extension (CPB(-CTE))) as a tri-fusion gene. For DNA priming, the tri-fusion gene was encoded in pcDNA formulated with cationic solid lipid nanoparticles (cSLN) acting as an adjuvant. At different time points post-challenge, parasite burden and histopathological changes as well as humoral and cellular immune responses were assessed. Our results showed that immunization with both prime-boost A2-CPA-CPB(-CTE)-recombinant L. tarentolae protects BALB/c mice against L. infantum challenge. This protective immunity is associated with a Th1-type immune response due to high levels of IFN-γ production prior and after challenge and with lower levels of IL-10 production after challenge, leading to a significantly higher IFN-γ/IL-10 ratio compared to the control groups. Moreover, this immunization elicited high IgG1 and IgG2a humoral immune responses. Protection in mice was also correlated with a high nitric oxide production and low parasite burden. Altogether, these results indicate the promise of the A2-CPA-CPB(-CTE)-recombinant L. tarentolae as a safe live vaccine candidate against VL.
    PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 04/2013; 7(4):e2174. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the main cause of chronic liver disease and to date there has been no vaccine development to prevent this infection. Among non-structural HCV proteins, NS3 protein is an excellent goal for a therapeutic vaccine, due to its large size and less variation in conserved regions. The immunogenic properties of heat shock proteins (HSPs) for instance GP96 have prompted investigations into their function as strong adjuvant to improve innate and adaptive immunity. The aim of this study was to examine additive effects of recombinant GP96 (rGP96) fragments accompanied by rNS3 on expression levels of α5integrin and pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-12 and TNFα, in Antigen Presenting Cells (APCs). Recombinant viral proteins (rNS3 and rRGD-NS3), N-terminal and C-terminal fragments of GP96 were produced and purified from E. coli in order to treat the cells; mouse spleen Dendritic Cells (DCs) and THP-1 macrophages. Our results showed that rNT-GP96 alone significantly increases the expression level of IL-12, TNFα and α5integrin in THP-1 macrophages and DCs, while IL-12 and TNFα expression levels were unaffected by either rNS3 or rRGD-NS3. Interestingly, the co-addition of these recombinant proteins with rNT-GP96 increased IL-12, TNFα and α5integrin expression. Pearson Correlation showed a direct association between α5integrin with IL-12 and TNF-α expression. we have highlighted the role of rNS3 plus rNT-GP96 mediated by α5integrin in producing IL-12 and TNFα. It can be suggested that rNT-GP96 could enhance immunity characteristic of rNS3 protein via production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
    Hepatitis Monthly 01/2013; 13(6):e8104. · 1.25 Impact Factor
  • Azam Bolhassani, Afshin Khavari, S. Zahra Bathaie
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    ABSTRACT: Saffron, a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, is rich in carotenoids. Two main natural carotenoids of saffron, crocin and crocetin, are responsible for its color. Preclinical studies have shown that dietary intake of some carotenoids have potent anti-tumor effects both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting their potential preventive and/or therapeutic roles in several tissues. The reports represent that the use of carotenoids without the potential for conversion to vitamin A may provide further protection and avoid toxicity. The mechanisms underlying cancer chemo-preventive activities of carotenoids include modulation of carcinogen metabolism, regulation of cell growth and cell cycle progression, inhibition of cell proliferation, anti-oxidant activity, immune modulation, enhancement of cell differentiation, stimulation of cell-to-cell gap junction communication, apoptosis and retinoid-dependent signaling. Taken together, different hypotheses for the antitumor actions of saffron and its components have been proposed such as a) the inhibitory effect on cellular DNA and RNA synthesis, but not on protein synthesis; b) the inhibitory effect on free radical chain reactions; c) the metabolic conversion of naturally occurring carotenoids to retinoids; d) the interaction of carotenoids with topoisomerase II, an enzyme involved in cellular DNA-protein interaction. Furthermore, the immunomodulatory activity of saffron was studied on driving toward Th1 and Th2 limbs of the immune system. In this mini-review, we briefly describe biochemical and immunological activities and chemo-preventive properties of saffron and natural carotenoids as an anticancer drug.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Reviews on Cancer 01/2013; · 9.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Cervical cancer, the third most prevalent cause of cancer in women worldwide, is associated with HPVs. The critical role of E7 protein in HPV-related malignancies has designated it as a strong contender for generating vaccines against HPV. Materials & methods: In this study, we developed a novel live vaccine using recombinant Leishmania tarentolae expressing E7-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion protein for the protection of mice against HPV-associated tumors. In order to transfect L. tarentolae with E7-GFP fusion construct, pLEXSY-neo2 system was applied. Followed by PCR, fluorescence imaging and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis, integration of E7-GFP gene into parasites genome was confirmed. A comparative study of six groups of C57BL/6 mice was performed to analyze antigen-specific humoral and cellular immune responses against E7 encoding live and DNA vaccines. Furthermore, the anti-tumor protective effect of L. tarentolae-E7-GFP was compared to other vaccination strategies, namely pcDNA-E7 as the DNA vaccine and pcDNA-E7/L. tarentolae-E7-GFP as the prime-boost regimen. Results: We found that E7-GFP expressing recombinant L. tarentolae induces significant levels of IgG2a and IFN-γ, while there is no significant IL-5 production compared with that of other strategies and control groups before and after challenge with TC-1 tumor cells. It is noteworthy that the designed live vaccine showed the best protection and minimum tumor size among all groups against TC-1-induced tumors. Conclusion: Overall, the results obtained revealed that the E7-GFP recombinant L. tarentolae could be a potential live vaccine for induction of immune responses in vivo.
    Immunotherapy 11/2012; 4(11):1107-20. · 2.39 Impact Factor
  • Azam Bolhassani, Sima Rafati
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    ABSTRACT: The immunogenic properties of heat shock proteins (HSPs) have prompted investigations into their application as immuno-modulatory agents. HSPs have been used as potent adjuvants in immunotherapy of cancer and infectious diseases. Some studies showed that immune activities reside within N- or C-terminal fragments of HSPs. These small fragments are sufficient to link peptides, to bind and be taken up by the receptors CD91 and scavenger receptor type A on antigen presenting cells (APCs). Thus, these mini-chaperones can be used in immunotherapy of tumors and vaccine development. The data clearly demonstrated the potential of using HSP fragments as a possible adjuvant to augment CTL response against infectious diseases. Some HSP domains have been shown to inhibit endothelial cell growth, angiogenesis or tumor growth. In this review, we describe the immuno-stimulatory activities of various mini-chaperones in development of different vaccine strategies (DNA-based vaccine and protein/peptide-based vaccines).
    Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics. 10/2012; 9(1).
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    ABSTRACT: DNA vaccines have emerged as a promising approach for generating antigen-specific immunotherapy. However, due to their low immunogenicity, there is a need to enhance DNA-based vaccine potency. Two main strategies to increase DNA-based vaccine potency are the employment of immuno-adjuvants such as heat shock proteins (HSPs) and a method of improving the delivery of naked plasmid DNA by electroporation. In the current study, we evaluated the effects of linkage of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 E7 as a model antigen to N-terminal and C-terminal of glycoprotein 96 (NT-/CT-gp96) on the potency of E7-specific immunity generated by DNA vaccines. We found that subcutaneous DNA injection with E7-CT (gp96) followed by electroporation generates the significant E7-specific IFN-γ immune responses as well as the best protective effects in vaccinated mice as compared to E7 or E7-NT (gp96) DNA vaccines. Therefore, our data indicate that subcutaneous administration of E7 DNA linked to CT (gp96) fragment followed by electroporation can significantly enhance the potency of DNA vaccines. Indeed, the structural domains of immuno-chaperones show the potential of generating effective immune responses against different clinical disorders such as cancer. Altogether, our results show that comparable regions of gp96 (N-/C-terminal fragments of gp96) may have qualitatively different immunological effects in vaccine design.
    Immunology letters 10/2012; · 2.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although DNA vaccines represent an attractive approach for generating antigen-specific immunity, improvement of their potency is highly demanded. In the present study, three strategies including linkage to immunostimulatory molecules (N-terminal of gp96), co-administration of chemokines (IP-10 or RANTES) and PEI600-Tat as non-viral gene delivery system have been applied to enhance DNA vaccine efficacy against HPV infections. We found that C57BL/6 immunization with E7-NT-gp96 fusion gene led to increased level of IFN-γ compared to E7 alone. The fused genes showed considerable protective potency in tumor mice model. In addition, E7-NT-gp96 delivered with PEI600-Tat was more protective against E7-expressing tumors comparing with E7-NT-gp96 alone. Our results showed that co-administration of IP-10 with E7-NT-gp96 delivered by PEI600-Tat elicits significant IFN-γ production and consequently a strong preventive response against TC-1 tumor cells in contrast to increased tumor growth by RANTES co-delivery. Also in therapeutic experiment, our data showed that co-immunization of IP-10 at the same inoculation site of TC-1 along with E7-NT-gp96 delivery by PEI600-Tat is able to significantly suppress TC-1 tumor growth. The successful treatment by this immunization protocol was associated with the elevated levels of IFN-γ and IL-2 production in the lymph nodes. These data indicated that fusion of NT-gp96 to E7 in combination with IP-10 co-administration and PEI600-Tat delivery system can synergistically enhance the potency of HPV DNA vaccines. Therefore, this approach suggests a combinational therapeutic strategy against cervical and other HPV-related cancers.
    Molecular Immunology 08/2012; 53(1-2):149-60. · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    Azam Bolhassani, Farnaz Zahedifard
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    ABSTRACT: The design of efficient cancer treatments is one of the major challenges of medical science. Therapeutic vaccines of cancer have been emerged as an attractive approach for their capacity of breaking the immune tolerance and invoking long-term immune response targeting cancer cells without autoimmunity. An efficient antigen delivery system is the key issue of developing an effective cancer vaccine. In this regard, live vaccination strategies including various live bacterial and viral vectors have attracted a great attention. Several bacterial strains such as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Lactococcus lactis effectively colonize solid tumors and act as antitumor therapeutics. On the other hand, the use of viruses as vaccine vectors such as Vaccinia, Adenovirus, Herpes simplex virus, Paramyxovirus and Retroviruses utilizes mechanisms that evolved in these microbes for entering cells and capturing the cellular machinery to express viral proteins. Viral/bacterial-vectored vaccines induce systemic T-cell responses including polyfunctional cytokine-secreting CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells. However, there is an urgent need for the development of new safe live vaccine vectors that are capable of enhancing antigen presentation and eliciting potent immune responses without the risk of development of disease in humans. Recently, nonpathogenic parasites including Leishmania tarentolae, Toxoplasma gondii and Trypanosoma cruzi have emerged to be a novel candidate for gene delivery and heterologous genes expression. In this review, recent researches on cancer therapy using genetically modified bacteria and virus are summarized. In addition, live parasite-based vectors will be discussed as a novel anticancer therapeutic approach.
    International Journal of Cancer 05/2012; 131(8):1733-43. · 6.20 Impact Factor
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    Azam Bolhassani, Sima Rafati
    11/2011; , ISBN: 978-953-307-538-9
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    ABSTRACT: To control cervical cancer, efficient vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) is highly required. Despite the advantages and safety of the protein vaccines, additional strategies to enhance their immunogenicity are needed. E7 is a transforming protein which represents a perfect target antigen for vaccines or immunotherapies. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) facilitate cellular immune responses to antigenic peptides or proteins bound to them. Regarding to previous studies, vaccination with purified HSP/antigen complexes efficiently elicit antigen-specific immune responses in mice model. The N-terminal of glycoprotein 96 (NT-gp96) has adjuvant effect and can induce effective cumulative immune response against clinical disorders, especially cancers. In this study, the recombinant HPV16 E7 and E7 linked to NT-gp96 (E7-NT-gp96) proteins were generated in prokaryotic expression system. Mice were vaccinated twice with this recombinant proteins and the immunogenicity of the fusion protein was determined. The preventive efficacy of E7-NT-gp96 fusion protein was also evaluated and compared to E7 protein after challenging with cancerous TC-1 cell line. In vitro re-stimulated splenocytes of mice vaccinated with rE7-NT-gp96 protein induced higher IFN-γ response in comparison with E7 protein immunization. Moreover, immunization with E7-NT-gp96 protein displayed low but stable humoral responses at post-challenge time. The data showed that vaccination with fused E7-NT-gp96 protein delayed the tumour occurrence and growth as compared to protein E7 alone. These results suggest that fused adjuvant-free E7-NT-gp96 protein vaccination could direct the immune responses towards Th1 immunity. Furthermore, the linkage of NT-gp96 to E7 could enhance protective anti-tumour immunity.
    Scandinavian Journal of Immunology 09/2011; 75(1):27-37. · 2.20 Impact Factor
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    Azam Bolhassani
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    ABSTRACT: Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) are short amphipathic and cationic peptides that are rapidly internalized across cell membranes. They can be used to deliver molecular cargo, such as imaging agents (fluorescent dyes and quantum dots), drugs, liposomes, peptide/protein, oligonucleotide/DNA/RNA, nanoparticles and bacteriophage into cells. The utilized CPP, attached cargo, concentration and cell type, all significantly affect the mechanism of internalization. The mechanism of cellular uptake and subsequent processing still remains controversial. It is now clear that CPP can mediate intracellular delivery via both endocytic and non-endocytic pathways. In addition, the orientation of the peptide and cargo and the type of linkage are likely important. In gene therapy, the designed cationic peptides must be able to 1) tightly condense DNA into small, compact particles; 2) target the condensate to specific cell surface receptors; 3) induce endosomal escape; and 4) target the DNA cargo to the nucleus for gene expression. The other studies have demonstrated that these small peptides can be conjugated to tumor homing peptides in order to achieve tumor-targeted delivery in vivo. On the other hand, one of the major aims in molecular cancer research is the development of new therapeutic strategies and compounds that target directly the genetic and biochemical agents of malignant transformation. For example, cell penetrating peptide aptamers might disrupt protein-protein interactions crucial for cancer cell growth or survival. In this review, we discuss potential functions of CPPs especially for drug and gene delivery in cancer and indicate their powerful promise for clinical efficacy.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 08/2011; 1816(2):232-46. · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    S Safaiyan, A Bolhassani, S Nylen, H Akuffo, S Rafati
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    ABSTRACT: Stimulation of neutrophils may potentiate immunity to Leishmania major. CpG-containing oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) has immune stimulatory effects and has been suggested as adjuvants and therapeutics to potentiate efficacy of vaccines and treatments against leishmaniasis. Here, we examined the stimulatory effect of synthetic ODN containing CpG motifs class A and B on cytokine production by neutrophils. Neutrophils from healthy donors responded to CpG-ODN type A, but not to class B, with secretion of IL-8 and following GM-CSF pretreatment with TNF-α production. To test whether neutrophil responses were altered in cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) and to better understand the role of neutrophils in susceptibility and resistance to disease, we evaluated cytokine responses in GM-CSF preconditioned neutrophils from asymptomatic (Leishmanin skin test positive, LST+) and nonhealing CL individuals to CpG-ODN class A and assessed the expression levels of toll-like receptors (TLR2), 4 and 9. LST+ and healthy donor, but not nonhealing CL neutrophils, responded with TNF-α secretion. Neutrophils from nonhealing CL displayed increased mRNA expression levels of TLR2, 4 and 9 compared to neutrophils from LST+ or healthy donors. Therefore, failure to cure CL is associated with reduced ability of neutrophils to secrete TNF-α and correlates with high TLR 2, 4 and 9 expressions.
    Parasite Immunology 07/2011; 33(11):609-20. · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reporter genes have proved to be an excellent tool for studying disease progression. Recently, the green fluorescent protein (GFP) ability to quantitatively monitor gene expression has been demonstrated in different organisms. This report describes the use of Leishmania tarentolae (L. tarentolae) expression system (LEXSY) for high and stable levels of GFP production in different Leishmania species including L. tarentolae, L. major and L. infantum. The DNA expression cassette (pLEXSY-EGFP) was integrated into the chromosomal ssu locus of Leishmania strains through homologous recombination. Fluorescent microscopic image showed that GFP transgenes can be abundantly and stably expressed in promastigote and amastigote stages of parasites. Furthermore, flow cytometry analysis indicated a clear quantitative distinction between wild type and transgenic Leishmania strains at both promastigote and amastigote forms. Our data showed that the footpad lesions with GFP-transfected L. major are progressive over time by using fluorescence small-animal imaging system. Consequently, the utilization of stable GFP-transfected Leishmania species will be appropriate for in vitro and in vivo screening of anti-leishmanial drugs and vaccine development as well as understanding the biology of the host-parasite interactions at the cellular level.
    Experimental Parasitology 03/2011; 127(3):637-45. · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    BMC proceedings 01/2011;
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    Azam Bolhassani, Shima Safaiyan, Sima Rafati
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer vaccines are the promising tools in the hands of the clinical oncologist. Many tumor-associated antigens are excellent targets for immune therapy and vaccine design. Optimally designed cancer vaccines should combine the best tumor antigens with the most effective immunotherapy agents and/or delivery strategies to achieve positive clinical results. Various vaccine delivery systems such as different routes of immunization and physical/chemical delivery methods have been used in cancer therapy with the goal to induce immunity against tumor-associated antigens. Two basic delivery approaches including physical delivery to achieve higher levels of antigen production and formulation with microparticles to target antigen-presenting cells (APCs) have demonstrated to be effective in animal models. New developments in vaccine delivery systems will improve the efficiency of clinical trials in the near future. Among them, nanoparticles (NPs) such as dendrimers, polymeric NPs, metallic NPs, magnetic NPs and quantum dots have emerged as effective vaccine adjuvants for infectious diseases and cancer therapy. Furthermore, cell-penetrating peptides (CPP) have been known as attractive carrier having applications in drug delivery, gene transfer and DNA vaccination. This review will focus on the utilization of different vaccine delivery systems for prevention or treatment of cancer. We will discuss their clinical applications and the future prospects for cancer vaccine development.
    Molecular Cancer 01/2011; 10:3. · 5.13 Impact Factor