Sunday, January 31, 2010

Digestive enzymes

"Malaria causes more than two million deaths each year, but an expert multinational team battling the global spread of drug-resistant parasites has made a breakthrough in the search for better treatment" (McGill). Examining the way malaria parasites reproduce, a team led by John Dalton, has identified "a plan of attack" to develop new and urgently needed treatments, which combat malaria.

The secret lies in how the parasites propagate. "Malaria parasites live inside our red blood cells and feed on proteins". They break down the proteins to "use the proceeds (amino acids) as building blocks for their own proteins". Once they "a sufficient size they divide and burst out of the red cell, entering another and repeating the process until severe disease or death occurs."

Specialized digestive enzymes of the parasites "enable them to undertake this process." Researchers have now developed three-dimensional structures of these two enzymes and "demonstrated how drugs can be designed to disable the enzymes."

"By blocking the action of these critical parasite enzymes, we have shown that the parasites can no longer survive within the human red blood cell," Dalton explains. "The team is putting their findings into action immediately and is already pursuing anti-malarial drug development."

Publications: The discovery will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and is the result of collaboration including Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Monash University and the University of Western Sydney, Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland and the University of Virginia in the U.S.

Read more about digestive enzymes and malaria

McGill University (2010, January 29). Breakthrough could lead to new treatment for malaria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/01/100128165850.htm

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