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Rochester advances understanding of deadly form of malaria
Date:6/1/2010

ria occurs when Plasmodium falciparum infects red blood cells. Once infected, red blood cells activate platelets, which secrete a key protein platelet factor 4 or PF4/CXCL4. Morrell's lab found that PF4 jumpstarts the activity of the immune system, whose job it is to protect against foreign intruders in this case, the malaria parasite by turning on pro-inflammatory cells, known as monocytes. Monocytes contribute to the inflammation in the blood vessels that leads to obstructions in the brain.

Morrell's prior research demonstrated that mice without PF4 protein are protected from cerebral malaria compared to mice with PF4 intact. When PF4 is removed monocytes are not activated, and mice experience less inflammation and consequently less cerebral malaria. Morrell hopes that future experimental therapies targeting PF4 will prove to be viable treatment options for cerebral malaria.

Researchers also identified a key transcription factor KLF4 that is important for the development and overall function of monocytes in cerebral malaria. Targeting KLF4 may also hold promise for treating other vascular inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis.

"Dr. Morrell's research is highly significant. He has discovered that platelets play a big role in malaria. His research may lead to novel treatments for malaria that target platelets instead of the parasite," said Charles Lowenstein, M.D., chief of Cardiology and director of the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Rochester.

Morrell and team are currently building on this research, and have found that the role of platelets is more complex than they initially thought. Ongoing research will focus on when to intervene and influence the activity of platelets, as timing has been found to make a marked difference in the outcome. Additionally, scientists at Rochester are collaborating with researchers from Johns Hopkins University to look at drugs that are approved for
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Contact: Emily Butler
emily_butler@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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