Collaborators seek parasite invasion blockers

A malaria research team, including WEHI Structural Biologist, Professor Ray Norton, has received a US$1 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health to develop more effective malaria treatments.

Together with Professor Robin Anders and Associate Professor Mick Foley from La Trobe University’s Department of Biochemistry, Professor Norton will investigate the structure and function of two malaria proteins, their implications for the disease and induced immunological responses.

More specifically, the group hopes to identify which parts of these key antigen molecules are recognised by antibodies that are activated in the immune response to malaria infection. They are particularly interested in those parts of the molecules that bind to antibodies that block parasite invasion.

One of the main reasons that the most lethal malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has proven such a formidable foe is its multi-faceted ability to largely evade the body’s immunological response.

The group believes that identifying the most potentially effective elements of the immune response against these proteins on the malaria surface will help to improve their properties as vaccine candidates.

Of particular interest to Professor Norton is the application of such new knowledge to help head off the capability of the parasite to invade healthy red blood cells.

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