Malaria vaccine comes closer to reality with 3D protein map

Washington: Although, progress has been made in the last 10 years towards developing malaria vaccines, there is no practical or effective vaccine that has been introduced into clinical practice. Now, a newly-developed three-dimensional ‘map’ has offered some hope.

A team of scientists has created the first 3-D ‘map’ of a critical protein that malaria parasites use to invade human red blood cells, which could lead to a vaccine countering the most widespread species of the parasite.

The discovery also raises the prospect of a vaccine that could target both the most prevalent and the most deadly malaria parasites that infect humans, a significant development for the future of malaria prevention.

A team of scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute established the first atomic-resolution structure of the protein PvRBP, used by Plasmodium vivax to infect human red blood cells.

The research, led by Dr Wai-Hong Tham, Dr Jakub Gruszczyk and colleagues, could allow scientists to generate new tools that block P. vivax infection and could potentially lead to a vaccine preventing the disease.

Tham said understanding how malaria parasites gain entry into red blood cells was essential for developing strategies to prevent malaria. P. vivax enters immature red blood cells by making proteins that recognise and bind to receptors on the red blood cell surface.

She noted that they have produced the first three-dimensional, atomic resolution structure of the protein using the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne, adding that they now basically have a map of where the proteins are binding their receptors, which gives them the instructions they need to begin designing inhibitors that could be used in a malaria vaccine.

The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)