Researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) have jointly deciphered a multiprotein complex that is involved in the invasion of the red blood cells (RBCs) by malaria parasites.
The peptide molecule, which has been identified for the very first time, can effectively prevent the interaction between malaria parasites and receptors found on RBCs thereby preventing the parasites from invading the RBCs and causing the disease.
P. falciparum can invade RBCs and replicate inside them. It is during the blood stage of infection that malaria occurs.
The parasites are known to quickly develop resistance against drugs through mutations.
The team led by Dr Anand Ranganathan from the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, and Dr Pawan Malhotra from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, used a unique approach to overcome the problem of drug resistance.
Instead of targeting the parasite, the molecule targets a specific receptor - cyclophilin B - found on the surface of RBCs that are used by the parasites to bind to the cells. Since the peptide molecule binds to cyclophilin B receptors, the parasites are neither able to bind to the receptors nor invade the cells.
After deciphering the mechanism of parasite entry, the team is now working to reduce the dosage to use the peptide as a drug. The researchers feel that it is easier to take the drug than the peptide to clinical testing by making necessary modifications.