INSERM forms EU-India consortium against Malaria
Malaria is normally associated with the developing world, affecting 219 million people according to figures by the World Health Organisation (WHO). But scientists say that with climate change it is possible parts of Europe could also become affected by the disease.
The European Commission as part of the Global effort to fight poverty and to reach the Millennium Development Goals has invested millions of euros into seeking ways to control this major public health problem. But the development of novel strategies for malaria control requires a better understanding of the biology of malaria parasites, particularly as efforts to find a remedy have so far been hampered by the parasite’s ability to quickly develop drug resistance. Indeed, there are new evidences that resistance to front-line treatments had increased, making the task of eliminating malaria more difficult.
So the MALSIG (’Signalling in Life Cycle Stages of Malaria Parasites’) project set out to develop novel strategies for malaria control, and in turn provide better understanding of the biology of malaria parasites. With funding of EUR 3 million, France’s Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM) formed a unique consortium of EU and Indian partners.
Indian partners joined this collaboration because malaria has become endemic in many regions of South Asia. Identifying potential targets requires an in-depth understanding of the signalling processes that control proliferation and differentiation during the parasite life cycle.
The MALSIG team dissected the signalling pathways that regulate essential processes in the life cycle of malaria - as spread by the female mosquito which carries the tiny parasites. The researchers characterised components of signal transduction pathways (protein kinases, nucleotide cyclases, calcium signalling mediators) in malaria parasites. They also studied specific biological and developmental processes during the life cycle of malaria parasites.
Approaches included proteomics, reverse genetics, structural biology, and the use of animal models of malaria. The team generated various transgenic parasite strains to learn more about the proteins responsible for the disease.
In addition new insights into DNA replication in gametocytes (a type of germ cell) have been gained through the study of cyclin-dependent protein kinase (CDKs), which regulate the cell cycle and effector molecules.
Overall, progress achieved to date (over 100 articles published) contributed to the emergence of an integrated picture of signalling in crucial cellular processes in the life cycle of malaria parasites. Another highlight has been the strengthening of a EU-India cooperation in a topic of growing importance.
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Communiqué de presse de l’Union Européenne