Hyderabad: Genetic alterations in the malaria pathogen will help to control the malaria parasite better according to research carried out by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).
Studies of the genes of plasmodium parasites which cause malaria found that plasmodium grows in the oxygen carrying red blood cells in the body.
Red blood cells protect the parasite, which hides and grows in there.
Biologists have to cross four membrane layers to reach the plasmodium genes through a method called electroporation which alters the genes of the parasite.
Dr Puran Singh Sijwali’s group at CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, has found the ‘lyse-reseal’ method whereby the gene delivery is easy and also economical.
Red blood cells (RBCs) open up or ‘lyse’ when salt concentration is lower outside the cell than inside it. This allows biologists to fill in the RBC’s with circular DNA of their choice.
Dr Singh explained, “In the laboratory the salt concentration was increased in the solution and the RBC closed and resealed.
“The DNA of interest had been inserted in the plasmodium falciparum. The parasite goes inside the RBC and passively takes up the DNA from the RBC. The DNA eventually ends up in the parasite’s nucleus with its own genes. This technique is found to be as effective as electroporation and works with 10 times less DNA.”
Since this procedure can be carried out at laboratory level, it is one of the reasons why the cost is less.
It will be easy to set it up in regions endemic for malaria and easier access to treatment helps to control the spread of the parasite.
The plasmodium parasite is found to cause malaria in 3.4 billion people across 92 countries in the world.
India is working towards the goal of being malaria-free but the challenges are very many. This method of understanding the genes of the parasite and targeting it in the human blood can help to control its spread.
The study was published in Scientific Reports magazine. Dr Rakesh Mishra, director, CCMB said, “Ease of making genetic alterations in the parasite will help in better understanding the biology of malaria pathogen and, thereby, help in control of the malaria parasite better.”