Friday, October 22, 2010

Malaria: Turning the Genetic Keys to switch it off

More than a third of the 72 molecular switches that control key stages in the life cycle of the malaria parasite can be disrupted in some way.

The finding is a significant breakthrough in the search for inexpensive, effective vaccines and drugs to stop the transmission of a disease that kills up to a million children a year, according to new research.

Until now little has been known about the cellular processes involved in the development of this deadly disease.

The research, published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, involved the first comprehensive functional analysis of protein kinases in any malaria parasite.

It is also the largest gene knock-out study in Plasmodium berghei—a malaria parasite infecting rodents.

“Blocking parasite transmission is recognized as an important element in the global fight to control malaria,” says Rita Tewari, in the school of biology at the University of Nottingham.

“Kinases are a family of proteins which contribute to the control of nearly all cellular processes and have already become major drug targets in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

“Now we have identified some key regulators that control the
transmission of the malaria parasite. Work to develop drugs to eradicate this terrible disease can now focus on the best targets.

This study shows how systematic functional studies not only increase our knowledge in understanding complexity of malaria parasite development but also gives us the rational approach towards drug development.”


University of Nottingham:

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