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Malaria Breakthrough from Virginia Tech

John on May 5, 2008 at 8:32 am

My alma mater is producing some important science these days:

Malaria parasites kill a million people a year, by infecting their red blood cells and gobbling up the haemoglobin proteins that transport oxygen in the blood.

But the “haem” portion of haemoglobin is toxic and, to avoid destruction, the Plasmodium parasite turns it into a non-toxic crystal called haemozoin.

Several existing malaria drugs work by binding to haem and stopping its transformation. However, understanding the process better could lead to the development of desperately needed new drugs for malaria.

Now Dewal Jani and his colleagues at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg have identified the key enzyme used by the parasite – called HDP. Mass screening has also identified several chemicals that might inhibit HDP, which is conserved across all Plasmodium species they tested.

Here’s hoping they can create a dirt cheap anti-malarial drug that’s 100% effective.

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Category: Science & Tech |

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