Scientists at The University of Nottingham and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge have pin-pointed the 72 molecular switches that control the three key stages in the life cycle of the malaria parasite and have discovered that over a third of these switches can be disrupted in some way.
Their research which has been funded by Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC) is a significant breakthrough in the search for cheap and effective vaccines and drugs to stop the transmission of a disease which kills up to a million children a year.
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 very 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.
Dr Rita Tewari, in the School of Biology at The University of Nottingham, led the research. Dr Tewari said: "Blocking parasite transmission is recognised as an important element in the global fight to control malaria. 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."
The life cycle of the malaria parasite is complex. Once the mosquito has feasted off infected blood fertilisation takes place within the mosquito. The deadly parasites are then injected back
|Contact: Lindsay Brooke|
University of Nottingham