Researchers profile malaria parasite genome

Updated: Feb 06, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Researchers have achieved a breakthrough by successfully profiling the malaria parasite genome for the first time - opening the way to more potent drugs for the disease that kills up to three million people every year.

The breakthrough was achieved by Singapore`s Nanyang Technological University`s (SNTU) School of Biological Sciences.

Zbynek Bozdech, assistant professor, and his team of researchers relied on transcriptional profiling to uncover hitherto unknown gene expression (activity) patterns in malaria.

Transcriptional profiling is the measurement of the activity of thousands of genes at once to create a global picture of cellular function.

These profiles can, for example, distinguish between cells that are actively dividing, or show how the cells react to a particular treatment.

The complete DNA content (genome) of the deadliest malaria parasite P. falciparum has about 5,300 genes. Until now, scientists had a good understanding of about half of them.

Bozdech`s team has successfully uncovered the gene functions for almost the entire genome, with more than 90 percent of the gene functions from the previously unknown half now better understood.

"Drawing on our findings, pharmaceutical companies could explore ways to design a drug that targets the weakest link," said Bozdech. "We have predicted all the genes that could be used for a vaccine as well," he said, according to a SNTU release.

Researchers at Germany`s renowned Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine have validated the research findings, which are expected to provide exciting new insights into parasite biology.

These findings appeared in Nature Biotechnology, a sister publication of Nature.

Bureau Report