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New lead on malaria treatment
Date:5/18/2009

Approximately 350 million to 500 million cases of malaria are diagnosed each year mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. While medications to prevent and treat malaria do exist, the demand for new treatments is on the rise, in part, because malaria parasites have developed a resistance to existing medications. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered one way to stop malaria parasite growth, and this new finding could guide the development of new malaria treatments.

"Our research on malaria is in line with Johns Hopkins' mission to address health problems on a global level," says Jun O. Liu, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences. "Our findings offer both a new potential molecular target for treating malaria and a compound that interacts at that target. These are important steps in discovering drugs that could help to treat malaria." The results of the research were published in the February 27 issue of Chemistry & Biology.

Liu's research team has for many years studied MetAP2 proteins, which are found in all organisms from humans to single-celled bacteria and essential for cell survival. They reasoned that if the malaria parasite has its own MetAP2, finding a chemical that disrupts MetAP2 function may lead to a new drug to stop parasite growth and malaria spread. So they searched a computer database of the sequence of the malaria parasite genome and found one protein very similar to human MetAP2, which they named PfMetAP2 for plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria.

Recently other researchers reported that the natural antibiotic fumagillin can stop malaria parasites from growing, possibly by interfering with MetAP2. But the man-made version of fumagillin causes brain cells to die, so Liu's team made several compounds chemically related to fumagillin in hopes of finding one less toxic but still effective in interfering with PfMetAP2. They chose to
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Contact: Audrey Huang
audrey@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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