Sunday, May 16, 2010

Containment cells

When a human hurts another, the solution is often to restrict the aberrant human to a containment cell. The same principle may be applied to malaria parasites to prevent them from killing their human host.

Seeking to "block invasion of healthy red blood cells by malaria", researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have "succeeded in locking the parasites within infected blood cells, potentially containing the disease."

"The findings reveal an essential step in the biology of the most common and severe malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and offer a new drug target for fighting one of the world's most common and dangerous infections."

"Working with the malaria parasite...the research team identified a single fast-acting protein …that enables it … to escape from a human red blood cell in preparation for quick invasion of many more healthy blood cells." If the protein is eliminated, then the escape plan is foiled.

Malaria parasites reproduce in red blood cells, producing up to 32 offspring every two days. Then, the parasites "burst out to infect more red blood cells."

"This is the stage where things have to happen very fast for the parasite," said senior author Manoj Duraisingh, HSPH assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases and senior author of the paper in the May 14 Science. "The parasite doesn't like to spend much time outside the cell. It grows and matures, and immediately following rupture, enters a new cell. It was a surprise that this protein kinase, which we thought would be involved in red blood cell invasion, turns out to be essential for the parasite getting out of the cell."

"When the parasite gets out of the red blood cell, it has a matter of seconds or minutes to get into new red blood cells, or it will be cleared or killed by the human immune system."

Fortunately, this particular protein "is found in the parasite and in plants, but not in humans, which means a drug targeted to that protein may be less toxic for people."

Read more: Harvard School of Public Health (2010, May 14). New twist on potential malaria drug target acts by trapping parasites in cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/05/100514171912.htm

J. D. Dvorin, D. C. Martyn, S. D. Patel, J. S. Grimley, C. R. Collins, C. S. Hopp, A. T. Bright, S. Westenberger, E. Winzeler, M. J. Blackman, D. A. Baker, T. J. Wandless, M. T. Duraisingh. A Plant-Like Kinase in Plasmodium falciparum Regulates Parasite Egress from Erythrocytes. Science, 2010; 328 (5980): 910 DOI: 10.1126/science.1188191

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