Researchers Have Found a Vital Key to How Malaria Grows

close up portrait of young medical researcher looking through miGlobally, malaria is responsible for almost 500,000 deaths annually.

After years of research, scientists have finally found the key to malaria growth. According to researchers, the growth of the virus comes down to cyclins, protein molecules that make cells divide rapidly for the malaria parasite.

Previous efforts to fight malaria have proved effective. Since 2000, for example, the rate of malaria infections in Africa have been cut in half. But according to the BBC, the findings from the study, led by a group of researchers from the University of Nottingham, could lead to great strides in the treatment and prevention of malaria worldwide.

In general, a cyclin is considered one of the most vital protein molecules needed for the process of cell division — and this isn’t only for malaria parasites. In fact, cyclins have been studied in humans, plants, and yeasts, and for these organisms, their cell development was better understood than that of malaria parasites.

But now, the research, recently published in PLoS Pathogens, is able to not only classify the number of cyclins present in malaria parasites but the type, too.

Bill Wickstead is a researcher at the University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences, and was one of the individuals responsible for identifying the three distinct cyclin genes found within the malaria parasite.

Compared to humans, this is a significantly smaller number of cyclins present. According to Dr. Wickstead, they cause an “exciting type of cell division.”

In order to figure out exactly what happens to a cyclin in malaria parasites, Professor Rita Tewari conducted an in-depth analysis of the proteins. She ultimately found that cyclins found in malaria parasites cause the cells to divide at a faster rate and spread throughout the body at an alarmingly fast rate.

Lead author of the study Dr. Magali Roques, feels the research will help to “definitely further our understanding of parasite cell division, which I hope will lead to the elimination of this disease in the future.”

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