Biotech Updates

Scientists Crack a Protein to be Used for Antimalarial Drugs

January 13, 2012

Scientists at Washington University cracked the structure and function of a protein found in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the most severe form of malaria. The protein is an enzyme (phosphoethanolamine methyltransferase) that the parasite uses to make the cell membrane. The enzyme is very important in the parasite because without it, the parasite would not be able to survive. The enzyme has many lookalikes in other organisms but not in humans. Thus, the enzyme is an ideal target for new drugs against malaria.

Studying the structure was not easy for Joseph Jez and the rest of the research team. It was a puzzle that took six years to finish. "What my lab does is crystallize proteins so that we can see what they look like in three dimensions," Jez says. "The idea is that if we know a protein's structure, it will be easier to design chemicals that would target the protein's active site and shut it down," Jez says.

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