Science in Focus: Cracking Crystals to Fight Malaria

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For over a century, a elementary exam for malaria has been to allegation a dump of blood between dual slides and demeanour for crystals that a bug leaves behind.

Malaria parasites leave behind crystals, and UCSF researchers are training some-more about what guides a arrangement them. Image by Jong Seto

Malaria parasites leave behind crystals, and UCSF researchers are training some-more about what guides a arrangement them. Image by Jong Seto

Now UC San Francisco researchers are training some-more about what guides a arrangement of these crystals, that could lead to new treatments for malaria.

The crystals magnitude one-tenth of one millimeter opposite and are built of iron-containing molecules called heme.

When malaria parasites taint tellurian red blood cells and mangle down hemoglobin, a protein formidable that transports oxygen, vast amounts of heme are expelled into a blood stream.  But giveaway heme is poisonous to a parasites, so they container it into crystals to seclude a poisonous reactivity.

The accurate molecular combination of a particles has remained puzzling until recently.

When Jong Seto, PhD, accessory expertise in UCSF’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, initial imaged these particles with a high-resolution nucleus microscope and saw firmly packed, pleasing crystals, he remembers thinking, “There’s something unequivocally unchanging going on here; this make-up is not only by chance.”

Seto and his collaborator, Joe DeRisi, PhD, a Albert Bowers Endowed Chair in Biochemistry and a Gordon M. Tomkins Chair during UCSF, consider that malaria parasites furnish a protein that binds to heme and packs it into crystals. They have found claimant proteins in a malarial genome that resemble a iron-binding tellurian protein ferritin.

Now, Seto wants to figure out how to aim these ferritin-like proteins in sequence to retard clear make-up and recover poisonous heme to poison malaria.

“We would adore to emanate an antibody opposite these novel proteins. If that interferes with a stacking of a crystal, it could stop malaria infection,” Seto said.

Source: UCSF