An enzyme found in all living things could hold the key to combatting deadly diseases such as sleeping sickness, a study suggests.
Research into the enzyme, which helps cells convert nutrients into energy, has shown that it is activated in different ways in various species.
Researchers say this discovery creates an opportunity to design drugs that block activity of the enzyme – known as pyruvate kinase – in species that cause infection. Blocking the enzyme would effectively kill the parasite, without affecting the same enzyme in the patient.
Findings from the study could lead to new treatments for diseases spread by parasites – including sleeping sickness and Chagas disease – that affect millions of people in the developing world.
Researchers say the finding could ultimately help tackle a range of healthcare problems, including antibiotic resistance and some forms of cancer.
Scientists used a range of analytical techniques to discover how pyruvate kinase functions in parasites, mammals and bacteria.
They found that the enzyme becomes active in all species in a similar way. A small sugar molecule binds to the enzyme to kick-start the process of nutrient absorption. But each species has a unique mechanism for activating the enzyme, providing opportunities to design drugs that block its activity in individual species.
The study is published in the first edition of the journal Royal Society Open Science.
The work was funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, Scottish University Life Sciences Alliance and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Professor Malcolm Walkinshaw, Chair of Structural Biology at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, said: "With this discovery, we've found an Achilles heel for sleeping sickness and many other conditions. Fresh discoveries about this key enzyme – pyruvate kinase – could enable the design of treatments to tackle disease without harm to the patient."
Catriona Kelly | Eurek Alert!
More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy