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Researchers block transmission of malaria in animal tests
Date:6/9/2008

spread of the malaria parasites in the infected individual.

The potassium channels are important for all cells

All animal and plant cells contain so-called ion channels. These are small pores which allow ions to move in and out through an otherwise impermeable cell membrane. The potassium channels are a sub-type of ion channel, found in all cells. Though the function of the potassium channels vary, they play a crucial role in a variety of biological processes, e.g. influencing the ability of the nerves to send electrical signals and the heart muscle to contract rhythmically.

Assistant Professor Peter Ellekvist explains that his interest in malaria led to a research collaboration with Professor Dan Klrke, who studies potassium channels at the University of Copenhagen. In collaboration with Professor Nirbhay Kumar and other colleagues from the Malaria Research Institute at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, the two researchers were able to manipulate the parasite's genes so as to ensure that the potassium channel no longer functioned. To their surprise, however, this intervention did not, in the first instance, appear to have any effect on the parasites.

"The gene knock-out parasites essentially killed the mice in the animal tests just as quickly as the "natural" parasites, that had not undergone genetic manipulation," explains Peter Ellekvist. "However, we found that the only parasites that were unable to reproduce sexually, were those with non-functioning potassium channels."

The experiments had effectively disrupted the insect's ability to pass on the disease.

Further research required

The next step for the research team is to examine whether parasites with non-functioning potassium channels react differently to anti-malaria drugs. A success here would allow the researchers to break the second phase of the infection cycle and prevent the asexual reproduction of the malaria parasites tha
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Contact: Sandra Szivos
sasz@sund.ku.dk
453-532-6921
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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