Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Virginia Tech Scientist Seek Genetic Solution To Malaria

Date:
November 3, 1998
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
Malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes to humans and animals, has made such a dramatic re-emergence in many areas of the world that the last five years has seen the growth of global interest in finding novel strategies to control the disease. Somewhere in the workings of the genes of mosquitoes may be a key to disrupting the insect's complex relationship with the parasites, a key that could break the cycle of transmission.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 30, 1998 -- Malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes to humans and animals, has made such a dramatic re-emergence in many areas of the world that the last five years has seen the growth of global interest in finding novel strategies to control the disease. Somewhere in the workings of the genes of mosquitoes may be a key to disrupting the insect's complex relationship with the parasites, a key that could break the cycle of transmission.

Related Articles


Shirley Luckhart, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech, is searching for that key. She's studying the two-week period when the malaria parasite develops inside a mosquito.

Only about 70 of the hundreds of mosquito species are capable of transmitting malaria. The disease-causing parasites must negotiate a torturous life cycle that alternates between the mosquito and an animal host. Parasites are ingested by a susceptible mosquito as it sucks blood from an infected host.

The parasite must then mature and reproduce during a two-week period in the mosquito, creating a new generation of parasites which are injected into another host when the mosquito feeds again.

Luckhart said that resistant parasites have emerged for each of the eight drugs that are commercially available to treat malaria. The species of mosquitoes that carry malaria are also becoming resistant to a number of control methods.

Countries witnessing a rising incidence of the disease are often experiencing dissolving social structures, which leads to increasingly ineffective control measures.

"The approach we're taking, if it's successful, is to develop transgenic mosquitoes that are incapable of transmitting the parasite," she said. "We're really at the beginning of a three-step process. First we need to identify candidate genes that affect the life cycle of the parasite. Then we need to develop strategies to manipulate the gene and to introduce the modified gene into a population of mosquitoes."

Luckhart is looking at biological and biochemical events occurring in the mosquito and in the parasite during the two-week incubation period.

"What we want to do is identify points in that process where the mosquito's immune system keeps the parasite's development in check," Luckhart said. "We've discovered recently that the immune response of mosquitoes involves the production of nitric oxide; humans also produce nitric oxide in response to malaria infection."

The toxic nitric oxide kills some of the parasites in the mosquito, but by the time it is produced the parasite has multiplied sufficiently to ensure that some individuals will survive.

"There's a limit to the amount of nitric oxide that can be produced," Luckhart said. "It's an incredibly toxic substance. Uncontrolled, it's a suicide response because it's so toxic that it would kill the mosquito.

"We may be able to enhance the production of mosquito nitric oxide, or we may be able to change it's timing," she said. "If we can trigger the release of nitric oxide sooner in the process, we may be able to eliminate the parasite before it has established itself."

The gene for the enzyme responsible for nitric oxide production in mosquitoes is very similar to the same gene in humans. Luckhart is looking at what drives nitric oxide production, such as the signaling that turns on the gene in mosquitoes.

"We've completed characterizing the gene," Luckhart said. "We're just starting to characterize it's regulatory aspects. There's a great deal of work yet to come."

There is also the possibility that by understanding the biochemical processes occurring in the mosquito, scientists may be able manipulate other responses to the parasite or they may be able to interfere with other pathogens, like viruses, that mosquitoes transmit.

Luckhart developed the project at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research during a three-year fellowship before she came to Virginia Tech in July. She will continue to collaborate with the Army, which has a variety of research programs concerning mosquitoes because of the potential for soldiers to find themselves in areas where malaria is prevalent.

Her work is also supported by grants from the National Institutesof Health and from the World Health Organization. Luckhart earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Florida, her master's from Auburn University, and her doctorate from Rutgers University.

With her program, Virginia Tech adds a new dimension to the transgenic capabilities of the university's biotechnology effort. Other Virginia Tech researchers have gained international attention for pioneering work in developing transgenic plants and animals for the production of pharmaceuticals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Virginia Tech Scientist Seek Genetic Solution To Malaria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 November 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981031181201.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (1998, November 3). Virginia Tech Scientist Seek Genetic Solution To Malaria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981031181201.htm
Virginia Tech. "Virginia Tech Scientist Seek Genetic Solution To Malaria." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981031181201.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Google X wants to improve modern medicine with nanoparticles and a wearable device. It's all an attempt to tackle disease detection and prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Researchers in Sweden released a study showing heavy milk drinkers face an increased mortality risk from a variety of causes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins