Studying the metabolism of the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum

by Lindsay Taylor Key

(Medical Xpress)—Fighting malaria in today's world will require a new, targeted approach, and Virginia Tech researchers are out for blood.

The parasites responsible for the mosquito-borne infectious disease are increasingly resistant to current drug approaches, and almost half of the world is at risk of contracting an illness.

Maria Belen Cassera, an assistant professor of in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, examines the metabolism of the -causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum in order to identify new drug targets.

Her newest project, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, will look at the crucial time when malaria is transmitted—when reproductive cell precursors known as gametocytes develop. Specifically, she wants to understand the role that specific metabolites called isoprenoids play in the early stages of development.

"We think that understanding the role of isoprenoids during gametocytogenesis and identifying metabolic steps absent or sufficiently different from its will allow us to design more efficient drugs to block , which is one of the key components for and eradication," Cassera said.

The metabolic pathways that the parasite uses are not found in humans, so pathway-specific drugs would have little effect on the human host.

"Dr. Cassera has taken a leap forward in malaria research by identifying a unique pathway at an essential step in parasite development and transmission to mosquitoes," said Vern Schramm, the Ruth Merns Chair and Professor of Biochemistry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and former postdoctoral mentor to Cassera. "Dr. Cassera is one of a select few scientists who can work productively at the level of parasite biochemistry, biology, drug discovery, transmission, and even primate models of the disease. Her talents have been justly recognized by support from the NIH."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New strategy emerges for fighting drug-resistant malaria

Jan 15, 2014

Malaria is one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the world today, claiming the lives of over half a million people every year, and the recent emergence of parasites resistant to current treatments ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments