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Achilles heel of the malaria pathogen discovered

Achilles heel of the malaria pathogen discovered

Researchers have found an Achilles heel of the malaria pathogen

With the help of a supercomputer, Swiss researchers have found an Achilles heel of the malaria pathogen. This enabled the scientists to identify a new type of active ingredient that can destroy the pathogen, but at the same time protect the red blood cells in humans.

Achilles' heel of the malaria pathogen Every year, around 300 million people contract malaria and around half a million children die of it every year. The results of studies by US scientists warning of the spread of malaria due to global warming have only recently been published. It is therefore all the more gratifying that reports address the progress in research into dangerous tropical diseases. With the help of a supercomputer, Geneva and Basel researchers have discovered an Achilles heel of the malaria pathogen. This enabled the scientists to identify a new type of active ingredient that can destroy the pathogen, but at the same time protect human red blood cells.

Pathogen of the most dangerous form of malaria As announced by the University of Geneva on Tuesday, the pathogen of the most dangerous form of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, can develop drug resistance very quickly. The team led by Didier Picard from the University of Geneva therefore started on a protein that helps the pathogen. The so-called Heat Shock Protein 90 (HSP90) protects cells from stress and occurs in all organisms, including humans. HSP90 protects Plasmodium from the fever attacks that the pathogen triggers itself and helps it to mature in the human red blood cells. Doctoral student Tai Wang used a supercomputer to examine the three-dimensional structure of HSP90 for possible points of attack for active substances. As the researchers now report in the "Journal of Medicinal Chemistry", he actually found a docking point for inhibitors that do not exist in the human counterpart of protein.

Database with one million chemical substances The doctoral student then had the computer search a virtual database with over one million chemical substances to find those who could fit into this position and found five candidates. The scientists tested them in a test tube and found that they are toxic to Plasmodium, but not to red blood cells. As the University of Geneva wrote in a communication, the researchers now want to further develop these so-called 7-azaindoles so that they can be used for clinical tests. Colleagues from the Ecole de Pharmacie Genève-Lausanne and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel also took part in the work. (sb)

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