New Way to Tackle Malaria Parasite Gene

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 12, 2014

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tackling malaria parasiteA new study published in the journal Nature Methods have revealed that a new genome editing technique could go a long way in disrupting a single malaria parasite gene which can have a success rate of up to 100 percent in a matter of weeks.

Jacuin Niles, who is the associate professor of biological engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said in a statement, "This approach could enable much more rapid gene analysis and boost drug-development efforts.”

The parasite which causes malaria is known as plasmodium falciparum and it has proven to be very resistant to any efforts in the study of its genes. In fact it could take up to a year to determine the function of a single gene, the one that slowed efforts to develop new and more targeted drugs.

The new technique in question which is called CRISPR actually exploits a set of bacterial proteins which protect microbes from the viral infection. It includes a DNA cutting enzyme known as Cas9 which is bound to a short RNA guide strand and this is programmed to bind to a specific genome sequence. It tells Cas9 where to make the cut. The approach is good because it allows scientists to target and easily delete any gene by simply changing the RNA guide strand sequence.

Half of the genome of Plasmodium falciparum still remains functionally uncharacterized, even though scientists have successfully sequences the entire genome. The half of it means about 2500 genes, knowing which could mean that scientists could think of novel therapeutics, either in the form of drugs or vaccines.

The CRISPR technology that we are discussing about could reveal more about how the parasite invades red blood cells and replicates inside cells which could generate new drug and vaccine targets. This could help immensely with the problem of malaria.

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