Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Step Closer to a Malaria Vaccine

30.08.2005


An international team of scientists that includes a researcher from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory has determined the three-dimensional molecular structure of a promising malaria-vaccine component. This research may help lead to a successful vaccine for the disease, which currently infects approximately 400 million people worldwide and kills about two million people each year — mostly children. The study is described in the August 29, 2005, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


A "ribbon diagram" that illustrates the AMA1 segment’s molecular structure



“The high number of deaths from malaria is partly due to the malaria parasite’s acquired resistance to traditional treatments,” said the study’s lead researcher, biologist Adrian Batchelor of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “The parasite is a highly complex organism that develops through different life-cycle stages. This has allowed it to evade the immune system and makes creating a comprehensive vaccine a difficult task.”

Malaria vaccines to date have not been entirely effective, only able to temporarily suppress the disease. A complete, fully protective malaria vaccine will likely consist of several components, each only partially successful at fighting malaria on its own. The potential “part” studied here is a protein known as “Apical Membrane Antigen 1” (AMA1), a protein found on the cell membrane of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the most deadly form of malaria.


A vaccine based on AMA1 has a good chance for success because AMA1 is produced, or “expressed,” in two critical parasite life-cycle stages. However, across different malaria strains, AMA1 can have many slight structure variations, called “polymorphisms.” These variations are problematic for vaccine development. Locating the polymorphic sites on AMA1 by determining its structure is essential to understanding how those sites might impact the development of a vaccine.

The research team focused on a particular segment of AMA1. They studied it using x-rays at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), a facility that produces x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared light for research. The x-ray analysis showed that the segment consists of two distinct regions, called domains, and further revealed unusual features: long molecular loops extending outward from the center of one domain. These loops form a “scaffold” for attached amino acids, which can mutate without affecting the function of AMA1. These mutations produce the different AMA1 polymorphisms.

“We think that these polymorphism-bearing loops serve a purpose, such as ‘protecting’ a critical portion of AMA1 from attack by human antibodies,” said Batchelor. “In fact, the AMA1 loops surround a molecular ‘trough’ that we suspect may be responsible for tethering malaria parasites to human red blood cells.”

Biophysicist Michael Becker, the Brookhaven scientist involved, said, “It feels good to contribute to efforts in the fight against malaria, as it’s a critically important disease to eradicate, especially for underprivileged regions of the world, and it is scientifically fascinating. Regarding Brookhaven’s role, it’s the indivisible wedding of science and technology at facilities such as the NSLS — and hopefully at the planned upgraded facility, NSLS-II — that provide us with the tools to pursue and create new science that can solve critical human problems in the real world.”

The researchers plan to build on this research by attempting to identify compounds that will fit into the trough and could prevent the malaria parasite from binding to red blood cells. They will also try to determine if there are non-polymorphic regions of AMA1 that could function as a vaccine.

This study also included scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and La Trobe University, both located in Australia. It was supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences and the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, both within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, as well as the National Center for Research Resources within the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Related Research

For another recent announcement about a protein structure that may be important in developing a malaria vaccine, see this release. This structure was also determined at the NSLS at Brookhaven Lab.

Laura Mgrdichian | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bnl.gov

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

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...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

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...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

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...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

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...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>