Dan Zilberstein, Ph.D., Head of the laboratory for molecular parasitology

Contact: danz@technion.ac.il, Tel: 972-77-8873647



The trypanosomatid parasite of the genus leishmania is the etiological agent of a variety of disease manifestations, collectively known as Leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is prevalent throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, Southern Europe (old world) and South and Central America (new world). Despite enormous efforts, it has proved difficult to predict the exact scale of the impact of the Leishmaniasis on public health, since many cases go unreported or misdiagnosed. It is estimated that approximately 12 million people are currently infected and a further 367 million are at risk of acquiring leishmaniasis in 88 countries, 72 of which are developing countries and 13 of them are among the least developed in the world (WHO www site, 1997). Hence linking leishmaniasis to poverty, economic development and various environmental changes such as deforestation, urbanisation, migration of people into endemic areas and building of damns etc. The annual incidence rate is estimated to be 1-1.5 million cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis and 500,000 cases of visceral leishmaniasis, these are the two major clinical types of leishmaniasis (WHO www site, 1997).

                                                 Promastigotes from sand fly midgut


                                              Amastigotes inside THP1 macrophages

Done by Dr. Adele Goldman Pinkovich (2018)

Leishmania differentiation in vitro

Our laboratory developed a method for axenic differentiatioation of L. donovani promastigotes into amastigotes in a host-free culture. This method is based on previous observations that Leishmania promastigotes can combine two environmental signals, typical to lysosomes, acidic pH (~5.5) and body temperature (37 °C), into a signal that induces differentiation. Based on this concept, we have modified medium 199 to make it into an amastigote-specific medium. Shifting promastigotes to this medium, followed by incubation in a CO2 incubator, induced differentiation. Axenic amastigotes reach
maturation within 5 days, resembling the time it takes in vivo.

To date, the axenic experimental system is widely used in our field, helping to understand and predict in vivo processes. According to PubMed, to date (mid-2019), 355 research papers that have used axenic amastigotes have been published. Read more…

Axenic promastigotes                                        Axenic amastigotes

From: Bachmaier, S. et al. (2016), Int. J. Parasitol. 46: 75-82