In a study(*) to be published in the next issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, in Portugal, show that an anti-oxidant drug can protect against the development of deadly forms of malaria. These findings have direct implications for the treatment of this devastating disease, caused by the parasite Plasmodium, and still one of the main causes of death worldwide.
The team lead by Miguel Soares had previously shown that, when Plasmodium multiplies inside red blood cells (the cells that transport oxygen from the lungs into tissues) it causes these cells to burst and to release hemoglobin (the protein to which oxygen binds inside red blood cells) into the blood stream. Once outside the red blood cells, hemoglobin itself can release its heme groups (the four iron centres through which oxygen binds to hemoglobin), which leads to the severe symptoms of malaria and eventually to death.
Now, the researchers found that once infected by Plasmodium, mice express high levels of heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1), an enzyme that degrades heme and thus protects the infected mice from developing severe forms of malaria. Furthermore, an anti-oxidant drug, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), has the same affect as HO-1, when given to Plasmodium-infected mice.
Miguel Soares explains, 'The antioxidant action of HO-1 is part of the host's natural defence strategy against the malaria parasite. It affords a potent protective effect against malaria but, astonishingly, does not seem to directly affect the parasite. In some cases the reaction of the host against the parasite can lead to death of the infected host. The protective mechanism afforded by HO-1 allows this host response to kill the parasite without compromising its own survival. This finding suggest that there might be alternative therapeutic approaches to treat malaria, which, unlike the current ones would not aim at killing the parasite directly, but rather at strengthening the health status of the host, so that the host could kill parasite and survive. This type therapeutic approach should provide potent protection against severe forms of malaria and thus save lives without favouring the appearance of resistant strains of Plasmodium.
'Moreover, one might be able to apply the same strategy to a range of other infectious diseases and impact on the treatment of not only malaria but a variety of other infectious diseases, a line of research we are actively pursuing at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência.'
This study was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Portugal as well as by the European Community, 6th Framework Xenome (LSH-2005-1.2.5-1) and the Gemi Fund (Linde Healthcare).
(*) Elsa Seixa, Rafaella Gozzelino, Ângelo Chora, Ana Ferreira, Gabriela Silva, Rasmus Larsen, Sofia Rebelo, Carmen Penido, R. Neal Smith, António Coutinho and Miguel P Soares (2009) Heme Oxygenase-1 affords protection against non-cerebral forms of severe malaria. PNAS Early Edition.
Ana Godinho | EurekAlert!
A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital
Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2017 | Life Sciences