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Scripps Research scientists identify new class of antimalarial compounds
Date:11/17/2011

ompounds was especially attractive because it was chemically unrelated to existing antimalarial drugs, and therefore less likely to run into problems with existing resistance. "I wouldn't want to base a multimillion dollar clinical trial on compounds for which there may be pre-existing resistance," said Winzeler. "Ultimately, we want to have something that will still be effective in 10 years."

The group used an automated system of their own design to see how these new compounds fared against malaria parasites incubated in liver cells in the lab. An imaging apparatus took multiple images of each collection of cells over time, and a computer script analyzed those images to see how well the various compounds inhibited the growth of the parasites.

In the end, the team was able to develop compounds that could be taken orally and would stay in the blood long enough to be a viable candidate for drug development. When it was given to mice, the compound provided complete protection against the parasite in the liver, and worked better in the blood than some commercially available drugs.

Spurring Drug Discovery

To better understand how the compound works, the team exposed successive generations of infected mosquitoes to low levels of the compound to produce resistant strains of parasites. They then sequenced the parasites' whole genomes and looked for genetic changes. "Every [resistant] strain we looked at had a mutation in the same gene," she said.

By offering a target for other new antimalarial drugs that can act in both the liver and the blood, that gene will provide other researchers fresh ammunition in the fight to eradicate the disease. So, too, will the decision by the team to make all of their data available online.

"We have been making all of our data available to the community to spur drug development," Winzeler said. "The data on all of the compounds that were tested will eventually be released, and this
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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