Malaria is caused by parasites whose lives begin in the bodies of mosquitoes. When mosquitoes feed on the blood of an infected human, the malaria parasites undergo complex development in the insect’s gut. The new study has focused on disrupting this growth and development with a lethal protein, CEL-III, found in sea cucumbers, to prevent the mosquito from passing on the parasite.
Human blood infected with malaria contains parasitic gametocytes – cells which can create parasite sperm and eggs in the gut of the insect. These then fertilise, kick-starting the parasite reproductive process and life cycle by producing invasive offspring called ookinetes.
These ookinetes then migrate through the mosquito’s stomach wall and produce thousands of ‘daughter’ cells known as sporozoites. After 10-20 days these are ready in the salivary glands to infect another human when the mosquito takes a subsequent blood meal.
The international team fused part of the sea cucumber lectin gene with part of a mosquito gene so that the mosquito would release lectin into its gut during feeding. The released lectin is toxic to the ookinete and therefore kills the parasite in the mosquito’s stomach.
In laboratory tests the research team showed that introducing lectin to the mosquito’s gut in this way significantly impaired the development of malaria parasites inside the mosquito, potentially preventing transmission to other people. Early indications suggest that this sea cucumber protein could be effective on more than one of the four different parasites that can cause malaria in humans.
Professor Bob Sinden from Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences, one of the authors on the paper said: “These results are very promising and show that genetically engineering mosquitoes in this way has a clear impact on the parasites’ ability to multiply inside the mosquito host.”
However, Professor Sinden explains that there is still a lot of work to do before such techniques can be used to combat the spread of malaria in real-world scenario. This is because although the sea cucumber protein significantly reduces the number of parasites in mosquitoes, it does not totally remove all parasites from all mosquitoes and as such, at this stage of development, would not be effective enough to prevent transmission of malaria to humans.
Professor Sinden says he hopes studies such as this one, which improve scientists’ understanding of the complex process by which malaria parasites are transmitted, will lead to new advances in the quest to prevent malaria.“Ultimately, one aim of our field is to find a way of genetically engineering mosquitoes so that the malaria parasite cannot develop inside them. This study is one more step along the road towards achieving that goal, not least because it has been shown that more than one species of malaria can be killed in this way.”
Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa, where one in every five childhood deaths is due to the effects of the disease. An African child has on average between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year.
Danielle Reeves | alfa
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy