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JNU scientists Dr Anand Ranganathan and Shailaja Singh make a pioneering discovery for malaria treatment

The novel method to stop the malaria parasite in its track is discovered by the team of Dr Anand Ranganathan, in collaboration with another group headed by Shailaja Singh and Nishant Joshi at Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida.

Pioneering the fight against Malaria, biologists from Jawaharlal Nehru University have broken new ground in crushing the malaria parasite before it can take refuge in red blood cells for its inexorable reproduction, says a report published in Deccan Herald.

The novel method to stop the malaria parasite in its track is discovered by the team of Dr Anand Ranganathan, in collaboration with another group headed by Shailaja Singh and Nishant Joshi at Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida.

The strategy devised by these professionals entails blocking the route that the Plasmodium falciparum (the parasite that causes cerebral malaria) takes to attack the red blood cells(RBCs). Though the discovery is in its embryonic stage, it offers options to improve the effectiveness of existing medicines such as chloroquine and artemisinin as the parasites are building resistance to these drugs. India had reported the first case of artemisinin resistance in 2018.

Scientists discover molecule that prevents parasite from invading Red Blood Cells

As per the report in Deccan Herald, from thousands of synthetic molecules, researchers were able to home in on that one molecule that prevented interaction between two crucial proteins which the parasite leveraged to invade the blood cells. The proteins are identified as Myosin A and its interacting partner, MTIP (Myosin A Tail Interacting Protein). The synthetic molecule which sticks to the Myson-MTIP complex is called ZA1.

According to Dr Anand Ranganathan, the plan was to interrupt the cycle of the parasite at the very first step when it tries to invade the RBCs. The binding of Myosin A to its interacting partner (MTIP) is critical to the generation of the force for parasite’s motility, said JNU scientist Anand Ranganathan.

Zill e Anam, the lead author of the study, said, “We discovered a very strong interaction between ZA1 and Myosin A. The interaction prevents Plasmodium’s motor machinery to function in its normal way.”

The researchers have also been successful in trimming the molecule further to create a smaller unit(named ZA1s) that cripples the parasite even more effectively.

Drug development will commence once crystal structure is understood: Dr Anand Ranganathan

Talking about the path ahead, Dr Ranganathan said in an interview to DH that the process of drug development would commence once the crystal structure of the molecule is understood.

Shailja Singh, who is another corresponding author of the paper that has been published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, added that one of the bigger challenges currently facing the fight against malaria is the parasite’s growing non-responsiveness to artemisinin and chloroquine.

The discovery could be significant for the country’s battle against malaria, which remains the only nation outside Africa to contribute about 80% of the global malaria burden and death.

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