Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lost Code

Although made of few parts, the complete DNA content or genome of a species is extensive and complicated. Plasmodium falciparum, "the most deadly form of malaria", has about 5,300 genes. "Up until now, scientists [had] a good understanding of the gene functions for only about half" of the genes.

Plasmodium falciparum is a tiny parasite that infects the blood of mammals through mosquito bites and is responsible for approximately 1 million human deaths each year. "Using transcriptional profiling," a process by which "gene expression (activity) patterns" are revealed, the research team lead by Prof Zbynek Bozdech (Nanyang Technological University) "has successfully uncovered the gene functions for almost the entire genome, with more than 90 percent of the gene functions from the previously unknown half now better understood."

"Transcriptional profiling is the measurement of the activity of thousands of genes at once," in order to "create a global picture of cellular function. These profiles can, for example, distinguish between cells that are actively dividing, or show how the cells react to a particular treatment. This outcome in infectious disease pathology could potentially be the decade's big breakthrough as it has yielded critical information about how the malaria parasite...responds to existing compounds with curative potential."

"Preventing malaria infection is important because resistance to anti-malaria drugs is a growing problem worldwide. There is currently no vaccine for malaria, which is widespread in poorer countries where it remains a hindrance to economic development. Also of growing concern to scientists is the confirmation of the first signs of resistance to the only affordable treatment left in the global medicine cabinet for malaria: Artemisinin."

"In successfully using transcriptional profiling to study the behavior of the malaria parasite, ...researchers have ventured into the unknown and paved the way for future breakthroughs in healthcare."

Gastin, George. "GenomeGradient.jpg" [Photo hosted by wikimedia, shared under CC license]

Nanyang Technological University (2010, February 6). World's first in-depth study of the malaria parasite genome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from /releases/2010/02/100205102607.htm

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