Malaria parasite elements in focus for hints into alternative drug targets

Scientists are trying to identify proteins, which influence the shape-function of the single mitochondrion that the malaria parasite harbours as well as how it undergoes repair, which, in turn, will help them understand how the parasite adapts to environmental changes.

“Understanding these processes will help decipher how the parasite adapts to environmental perturbations, mitigate drug-induced toxicity (phenotypic drug resistance), drive recurrence of infection after completion of treatment, and relapse from dormant stages,” a release from the Department of Science & Technology (DST) under the Ministry of Science and Technology said on the work carried out by CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute (Lucknow) scientist and Swarnajayanti fellowship 2020-21 awardee, Dr Niti Kumar and her research group.

Malaria biology is an interesting field not only from the perspective of biochemical or molecular investigations, but it also allows addressing exciting cell biology/organelle-biology questions, it said.

“So far, experimental exploration of questions related to biogenesis, division, repair of these organelles in human malaria parasites is very limited. Understanding about the fission-fusion processes in parasite organelles, especially for mitochondrion-ER-lysosomes organelle contacts, remains unexplored,” the release said.

Dr Kumar’s group is trying to probe into mitochondrial dynamics and inter-organelle communication during environmental stress and drug-induced toxicity to delve into this area.

“For pharmaceutical companies, parasitic diseases are low priority area for investments, therefore, continuous academic research efforts are required for investigating critical parasite pathways which may give hints into alternative sites or drug targets for antimalarial intervention to tackle emerging drug resistance, and this will directly translate into societal benefits,” said Dr Niti Kumar.

Her research group is using multi-pronged approaches to understand how the structurally-functionally diverged components of genome and proteome maintenance pathways give a survival advantage to the malaria parasite.

“The know-how generated through curiosity-driven research explorations of parasite biology can be also extrapolated to other human pathogens and host-pathogen interactions,” she pointed out.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here