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Crop Biotech Update

Study Reveals Potential Achilles' Heel in Malaria Parasite

December 18, 2013

University of California, Riverside (UCR) researchers have discovered a potential weakness in malaria-borne Plasmodium parasites. The researchers discovered low levels of DNA methylation in Plasmodium's genome that may be critical to the survival of the parasite, according to UCR Biology Professor Karine Le Roch, who led the research.

The DNA methylation enzyme found in Plasmodium is different than the one in humans, making it easier to shut down. Le Roch adds, "If a drug can be developed that specifically inhibits the methylation enzyme, it could kill the parasite in infected humans."

Researchers are keen to find a new drug against malaria, since mutations in the parasite have made it resistant to the most effective drugs on the market. Le Roch's ultimate goal is to map the regulatory networks controlling the entire life cycle of the Plasmodium parasite. "We're trying to find its Achilles heel," she said.

For more details about this research, read the UCR news release available at http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/19520.