Australian-based research team finds the malaria parasite's 'housebreaking tool'

August 26, 2005

Plasmodium falciparum, the most lethal malaria parasite, is a housebreaking villain of the red blood cell world. Like a burglar searching for a way in to his targeted premises, the parasite explores a variety of potential entry points to invade the red blood cells of its human victims. When a weak point is found, the intrusion proceeds.

Scientists have known about the parasite's housebreaking habit for a decade, but just how it breaks in to blood cells has been unknown.

Now, an international team of scientists, led by WEHI's Professor Alan Cowman, has discovered the gene - known as PfRh4 - that the parasite uses as a tool to switch between potential invasion points. More specifically, the gene provides the parasite with the ability to switch from receptors on red blood cells that contain sialic acid to those that do not.

In effect, if the gene finds all the doors locked, then it will try all the windows until it finds one it can force open.

The team who performed the research work consisted of Janine Stubbs, Ken Simpson, Tony Triglia, David Plouffe, Christopher J. Tonkin, Manoj T. Duraisingh, Alexander G. Maier and Elizabeth Winzeler. Professor Cowman and his team at WEHI worked with researchers from the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego, California.

This discovery made by the group will have a profound impact upon the design of new anti-malarial vaccines, since the inactivation of this single protein could block multiple entry points currently open to the parasite.

Professor Cowman is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute international research scholar. The results of the new study are published in the 26 August 2005 issue of the prestigious journal, Science.
-end-
Further information: contact Brad Allan, WEHI Communications Manager: tel 61-393-452-345; mob 0403036116.

Note: Prof Cowman is in the UK and will return to WEHI on Monday 29 August.

Research Australia

Related Red Blood Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SMART researchers develop fast and efficient method to produce red blood cells
Researchers from Singapore-MIT developed a faster and more efficient way to manufacture red blood cells that cuts down on cell culture time by half.

Synthetic red blood cells mimic natural ones, and have new abilities
Scientists have tried to develop synthetic red blood cells that mimic the favorable properties of natural ones, such as flexibility, oxygen transport and long circulation times.

Exeter student leads research concluding that small red blood cells could indicate cancer
Having abnormally small red blood cells - a condition known as microcytosis - could indicate cancer, according to new research led by a University of Exeter student working with a world-leading team.

Physicists design 'super-human' red blood cells to deliver drugs to specific targets
A team of physicists from McMaster University has developed a process to modify red blood cells so they can be used to distribute drugs throughout the body, which could specifically target infections or treat catastrophic diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer's.

Blood transfusions: Fresh red blood cells no better than older ones
Findings from the ABC-PICU study on critically ill children may alter policies at hospitals where fresh red cells are preferentially used.

Fresh red blood cell transfusions do not help critically ill children more than older cells
Researchers have found that transfusions using fresh red blood cells -- cells that have spent seven days or less in storage -- are no more beneficial than older red blood cells in reducing the risk of organ failure or death in critically ill children.

Red blood cell donor pregnancy history not tied to mortality after transfusion
A new study has found that the sex or pregnancy history of red blood cell donors does not influence the risk of death among patients who receive their blood.

How sickled red blood cells stick to blood vessels
An MIT study describes how sickled red blood cells get stuck in tiny blood vessels of patients with sickle-cell disease.

Novel gene in red blood cells may help adult newts regenerate limbs
Adult newts can repeatedly regenerate body parts. Researchers from Japan, including the University of Tsukuba, and the University of Daytona, have identified Newtic1, a gene that is expressed in clumps of red blood cells in the circulating blood.

Healthy red blood cells owe their shape to muscle-like structures
The findings could shed light on sickle cell diseases and other disorders where red blood cells are deformed.

Read More: Red Blood Cells News and Red Blood Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.