Navigation Links
WPI wins NIH grant to study components of a potentially potent, low-cost malaria treatment
Date:7/15/2014

WORCESTER, Mass. With a three-year, $420,000 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will test a plant-based therapy it is developing that may prove to be a highly effective and low-cost treatment for malaria, one of the world's most prevalent and deadly infectious diseases.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people contracted malaria in 2012 and some 627,000mostly children under the age of 5died from the disease. Caused by a mosquito-borne parasite, the illness is reported in nearly 100 countries and threatens nearly half of the world's population.

Led by Pamela Weathers, PhD, professor of biology and biotechnology, the WPI team is testing a therapy that consists of dried leaves from the sweet wormwood plant, Artemisia annua. The plant produces a compound called artemisinin, which in combination with other antimalarial drugs is the primary treatment for malaria today.

Unfortunately, artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is expensive to produce and is often in short supply in areas hit hardest by the disease. In addition, while the combination therapy is designed to be less prone to the drug resistance that has rendered previous antimalarial agents ineffective, the malaria parasite is beginning to show signs of resistance to ACT, particularly in Southeast Asia. "Malaria remains a major global health crisis and the increasing drug resistance is alarming," Weathers said. "Our ultimate goal is to make an easy-to-produce therapy available to the people who need it most."

Artemisia annua has been used as an herbal therapy for thousands of years, typically as a tea infusion to treat fever. Today, artemisinin, the principal therapeutic compound in the plant, is extracted, purified, and combined with other drugs to make ACT. Weathers's team takes a different approach, using dried whole leaves from Artemisia annua as a medication.

In previous work Weathers and her colleagues have shown that mice fed powered dried leaves had 40 times more artemisinin in their blood stream than mice fed pure artemisinin. Furthermore, the whole-plant therapy was five times more effective in clearing the disease-causing parasite from the mice. In addition to delivering more artemisinin to the bloodstream, the effectiveness of the whole plant treatment may be due to the presence of other potentially therapeutic compounds in the leaves.

In the new study, Weathers will use a laboratory model of the human digestive system to discover which compounds in the leaves move through the intestinal wall. She will focus on several compounds, including flavonoids and terpenes, which have exhibited antimalarial effects of their own and which may also help artemisinin move through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream where it can attack the malaria parasite.

Flavonoids are widely distributed in plants and have various functions, including giving blossoms color. They are also believed to work synergistically with artemisinin to kill the malaria parasite. Terpenes are among the essential oils that play a role in the plant's defense system. Secreted terpenes have anti-microbial properties and deter some leaf-eating predators.

In a series of experiments over the next three years, the Weathers lab will use a cell culture model to study how the flavonoids and terpenes move through a layer of cultured human intestinal wall cells. They will also test the flavonoids and terpenes in combination with artemisinin to see how they affect the movement of artemisinin across the cell layer.

"Because these other compounds in the plant have some therapeutic activity, using the whole plant becomes an effective plant-based combination therapy," Weathers said. "Through this study, we hope to develop a better understanding of what compounds in the plant may be involved in making artemisinin more bioavailable."

While the NIH-funded project progresses, Weathers is also working with several groups in Africa and the United States to establish a new economic model for using whole plant therapy to combat malaria. She envisions local operations where farmers grow the high-producing cultivars of Artemisia that she and others have developed as a supplemental crop and deliver the leaves to processing stations, where they would be dried, pulverized, and homogenized, and where the powder would be placed in capsules or compacted into tablets for distribution to local populations.

"The beauty of all this is that the plant is easy to grow in most areas and the production process is relatively simple," Weathers said. "It could be an important boost for local economies and for the health of local populations."


'/>"/>

Contact: Michael Cohen
mcohen@wpi.edu
508-868-4778
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. A fragrant new biofuel
2. Record-breaking grant: New research project to investigate the causes of mental disorders
3. WHOI researchers, collaborators receive $1.4 million grant to study life in oceans greatest depths
4. ASBMB wins National Science Foundation grant to enhance K-12 science education
5. Scientist wins $3 million renewal of one of longest-running NIH grants to Scripps Research
6. Kinesiology team gets $975,000 Defense grant to study effects of heavy loads on soldiers
7. Michael J. Fox Foundation grant to Dr. Samuel Young will provide Parkinsons drug development tools
8. UC Riverside receives grant for global health and development research
9. Biology professor secures grant to save West Virginias primary natural history collection
10. Lawson recieves Grand Challenges Explorations grant for groundbreaking research
11. Scripps Florida scientists awarded $8.4 million grant to develop new anti-smoking treatments
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
WPI wins NIH grant to study components of a potentially potent, low-cost malaria treatment
(Date:4/13/2017)... According to a new market research report "Consumer IAM Market by ... Service, Authentication Type, Deployment Mode, Vertical, and Region - Global Forecast to ... USD 14.30 Billion in 2017 to USD 31.75 Billion by 2022, at ... ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. ... technology company, announces the appointment of independent Directors Mr. ... to its Board of Directors, furthering the company,s corporate governance ... Gino ... we look forward to their guidance and benefiting from their ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... April 4, 2017 KEY FINDINGS ... expand at a CAGR of 25.76% during the forecast ... the primary factor for the growth of the stem ... https://www.reportbuyer.com/product/4807905/ MARKET INSIGHTS The global stem cell ... application, and geography. The stem cell market of the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/9/2017)... 9, 2017  BioTech Holdings announced today identification ... its ProCell stem cell therapy prevents limb loss ... Company, demonstrated that treatment with ProCell resulted in ... as compared to standard bone marrow stem cell ... in reduction of therapeutic effect.  ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The Giving Tree Wellness ... targeting the needs of consumers who are incorporating medical marijuana into their wellness ... Arizona. , As operators of two successful Valley dispensaries, The Giving Tree’s two ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... Hi-C metagenome deconvolution product, featuring the first commercially available Hi-C kit. Researchers ... perform Hi-C metagenome deconvolution using their own facilities, supplementing the company’s full-service ...
(Date:10/6/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... discussion and webinar on INSIGhT, the first-ever adaptive clinical trial for glioblastoma (GBM). ... Institute. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: