Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery of metabolic pathway for parasite could lead to new controls for diseases

15.08.2006
Discovery may benefit pregnant mothers and those with compromised immune systems

Toxoplasma gondii is one nasty bug. A microscopic parasite, it lives in the intestinal tract of cats but can be carried by most warm-blooded animals. In humans, it can harm or even kill a developing fetus, and it can as well sicken those with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients.

Now, for the first time, cellular biologists at the University of Georgia and the University of Pennsylvania have shown that fatty acid synthesis in T. gondii is essential for the parasite's survival. The discovery could lead to the development of new drugs to make the parasite's effects much less troublesome in both humans and animals.

"New drugs with novel mechanisms of action are urgently needed," said Boris Striepen, a cellular biologist in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases at the University of Georgia. "This new study presents us with a viable target for such new drugs."

The research was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other authors on the paper are Jolly Mazumdar, formerly a doctoral student at UGA and now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and Emma Wilson, Kate Masek and Christopher Hunter of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Toxoplasma belongs to a group of parasites that harbor a chloroplast-like organelle, the apicoplast. Chloroplasts are the home of photosynthesis in plants and algae and are responsible for the green color of leaves. Apicoplasts have long puzzled scientists. What does a parasite living in the brain or blood of humans have to do with a structure associated with harvesting sunlight? It turns out that the chloroplasts have additional functions, and it is these functions that the parasites require.

Striepen and his team discovered that a special chloroplast fatty acid synthesis (FAS) pathway in T. gondii is essential for the parasite's ability to cause disease and to survive. Finding a way to turn off the functions of this pathway could make T. gondii a toothless tiger.

"This is the first robust genetic evidence that a specific chloroplast pathway is essential to the organism," said Striepen. Humans also have a fatty acid synthesis pathway, but because it is entirely different from the one uncovered in T. gondii, drug developers could turn off the pathway in the parasite without harming the one in humans. This makes the parasite's vital FAS pathway a perfect target.

This isn't the first time that the apicoplast has been seen as a target for drug intervention. The closely related malaria parasite also harbors an apicoplast. As early as 1998, researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia published a paper suggesting the apicoplast as a target for new antimalarial drugs. The new paper, however, is the first to explain that the fatty acid synthesis pathway in T. gondii is necessary for the parasite's survival and why.

Toxoplasmosis often remains undiagnosed, and in healthy people, T. gondii causes few noticeable health problems. Its relatively benign status as a disease-carrying parasite, in fact, makes it ideal to study in the laboratory. It is also very amenable to genetic experiments and can serve as a model for such Apicomplexans as Plasmodium, the cause of malaria, one of the deadliest diseases on Earth. According to the World Health Organization there are 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria each year resulting in 1.5 to 2.7 million deaths.

For pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, the problems are much more dangerous. For instance, Toxoplasma encephalitis is one of the leading causes of death among AIDS patients. Fetuses that contract the disease from infected mothers may be born with learning disabilities, vision problems or mental retardation.

Infections in those who are symptomatic are treatable; however, this treatment is not always effective and is often associated with toxicity, which is especially problematic in treating pregnant women.

Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New RNA sequencing strategy provides insight into microbiomes
17.12.2018 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Formed to Meet Customers’ Needs – New Laser Beams for Glass Processing

17.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Preserving soil quality in the long term

17.12.2018 | Architecture and Construction

New RNA sequencing strategy provides insight into microbiomes

17.12.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>