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New discoveries about severe malaria
Date:5/21/2012

SEATTLE, May 21, 2012 Researchers from Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (Seattle BioMed), the University of Copenhagen and the University of Edinburgh have uncovered new knowledge related to host-parasite interaction in severe malaria, concerning how malaria parasites are able to bind to cells in the brain and cause cerebral malaria the most lethal form of the disease. Three related papers will be published in the May 21 online edition of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), a premier scientific journal, highlighting this research.

"Identifying the molecules that allow malaria parasites to 'stick' to the brain takes us one step closer to new treatments," said Joseph Smith, Ph.D., leader of the Seattle team.

Red blood cells infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the type most lethal to humans, bind to receptors on cells lining blood vessel walls, which helps the parasite avoid being detected and killed by the spleen. The binding is mediated by one of several members of a family of parasite proteins called P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1, or PfEMP1. A single PfEMP1 mediates placental malaria the cause of malaria during pregnancy, which kills thousands of women and causes premature births and low-birth weight babies each year but other PfEMP1 types causing life-threatening disease in young children are unknown.

To hone in on specific PfEMP1 types associated with severe malaria, Thomas Lavstsen, Ph.D., and his team from the University of Denmark used molecular techniques to compare the levels of different PfEMP1 transcripts in blood samples from children hospitalized in the pediatric ward of the Korogwe District Hospital in Tanzania. "Our research revealed that genes encoding two distinct types of PfEMP1 - named domain cassettes 8 and 13 - were tied to cases of severe malaria, suggesting that those proteins might be suitable targets in efforts aimed at curbing the disea
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Contact: Jennifer Mortensen
jennifer.mortensen@seattlebiomed.org
206-256-7220
Seattle Biomedical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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