For years biomedical researchers have known that high density lipoproteins, commonly called HDLs or "good cholesterol," are responsible for protecting humans from certain parasites, but couldnt explain how. Now MBL scientists have discovered that human HDLs work this bug-repelling magic by serving as a platform for the assembly and delivery of two naturally occurring proteins that combine to create a super-toxic antimicrobial.
The research, published in the September 30 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, focuses specifically on human innate immunity to Trypanosoma brucei brucei, the parasite that gives African cattle the deadly disease called Nagana, but which doesnt harm humans even though scientists believe they are exposed to it. The parasite is a close relative of Trypanosoma brucei gambienese and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, the organisms that cause African sleeping sickness in humans.
The findings that two proteins work synergistically to kill the Nagana parasite in humans contradict a long-held hypothesis that a single protein was the key to HDLs parasite-fighting power. "The research may be helpful to veterinarians hoping to develop treatments to aid African cattle farmers, who lose three million cattle and around a billion US dollars annually to Nagana," says April Shiflett, a scientist in the MBLs Global Infectious Diseases Program and an author on the paper. Scientists also hope the research will provide key information to investigators seeking treatments for certain parasitic infections, such as malaria.
Gina Hebert | EurekAlert!
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