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

3-D printing offers innovative method to deliver medication

3 hours ago

3-D printing could become a powerful tool in customizing interventional radiology treatments to individual patient needs, with clinicians having the ability to construct devices to a specific size and shape. That's according ...

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.