Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

New Tool in the Fight against Tropical Diseases

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Bookmark and Share
A novel tool exploits baker's yeast to expedite the development of new drugs to fight multiple tropical diseases.

The unique screening method uses yeasts which have been genetically engineered to express parasite and human proteins to identify chemical compounds that target disease-causing parasites but do not affect their human hosts.

Parasitic diseases affect millions of people annually, often in the most deprived parts of the world. Every year, malaria alone infects over 200 million people, killing an estimated 655,000 individuals, mostly under the age of five. Unfortunately, our ability to treat malaria, which is caused by Plasmodium parasites, has been compromised by the emergence of parasites that are resistant to the most commonly used drugs. There is also a pressing need for new treatments targeting other parasitic diseases, which have historically been neglected.

Currently, drug-screening methods for these diseases use live, whole parasites. However, this method has several limitations. First, it may be extremely difficult or impossible to grow the parasite, or at least one of its life cycle stages, outside of an animal host. (For example, the parasite Plasmodium vivax, responsible for the majority of cases of malaria in South America and South-East Asia, cannot be continuously cultivated in laboratory conditions.) Second, the current methods give no insight into how the compound interacts with the parasite or the toxicity of the compound to humans.

In an effort to develop new drugs to fight parasitic diseases, scientists from the University of Cambridge have collaborated with computer scientists at Manchester University to create a cheaper and more efficient anti-parasitic drug-screening method. The clever screening method identifies chemical compounds which target the enzymes from parasites but not those from their human hosts, thus enabling the early elimination of compounds with potential side effects.

Professor Steve Oliver, from the Cambridge Systems Biology Centre and Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, said: "Our screening method provides a faster and cheaper approach that complements the use of whole parasites for screening. This means that fewer experiments involving the parasites themselves, often in infected animals, need to be carried out."

The new method uses genetically engineered baker's yeast, which either expresses important parasite proteins or their human counterparts. The different yeast cells are labelled with fluorescent proteins to monitor the growth of the individual yeast strains while they grow in competition with one another. High-throughput is provided by growing three to four different yeast strains together in the presence of each candidate compound. This approach also provides high sensitivity (since drug-sensitive yeasts will lose out to drug-resistant strains in the competition for nutrients), reduces costs, and is highly reproducible.

The scientists can then identify the chemical compounds that inhibit the growth of the yeast strains carrying parasite-drug targets, but fail to inhibit the corresponding human protein (thus excluding compounds that would cause side-effects for humans taking the drugs). The compounds can then be explored for further development into anti-parasitic drugs.

In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of their screening tool, the scientists tested it on Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. By using the engineered yeasts to screen for chemicals that would be effective against this parasite, they identified potential compounds and tested them on live parasites cultivated in the lab. Of the 36 compounds tested, 60% were able to kill or severely inhibit the growth of the parasites (under standard lab conditions).

Dr Elizabeth Bilsland, the lead author of the paper from the University of Cambridge, said: "This study is only a beginning. It demonstrates that we can engineer a model organism, yeast, to mimic a disease organism and exploit this technology to perform low-cost, fully-automated drug screens to select and optimise drug candidates as well as identify and validate novel drug targets.

"In the future, we hope to engineer entire pathways from pathogens into yeast and also to construct yeast strains that mimic diseased states of human cells."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Genome-Editing Position Statement
A group of leading UK research organisations has today issued an initial joint statement in support of the continued use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other genome-editing techniques in preclinical research.
Monday, September 07, 2015
Expanding the DNA Alphabet: 'Extra' DNA Base Found to be Stable in Mammals
A rare DNA base, previously thought to be a temporary modification, has been shown to be stable in mammalian DNA, suggesting that it plays a key role in cellular function.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Global Food Security (GFS) Develops New Funding Programme
New programme of research to tackle resilience of the food system.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
£4M to Fund Important Food Crops from BBSRC and NERC
Research projects designed with industry partners to maximize impact.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
Controlling Leaf Blotch Disease In Wheat
Scientists have found a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of a "devastating" disease threatening wheat crops.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Rising Temperatures Predicted to Lower Wheat Yields
An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects climate change on global wheat yields.
Friday, December 26, 2014
New Test For Detecting Horse Meat
New test compares differences in chemical compositions of the fat found in meats.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
UK And India Collaborate On Future-Proof Crops
Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Drugs Used to Treat Lung Disease Work With the Body Clock
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered why medication to treat asthma and pneumonia can become ineffective.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Researchers Use ‘Big Data’ Approach to Map the Relationships Between Human and Animal Diseases
EID2 database used to prevent and tackle disease outbreaks around the globe.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
TGAC at the Forefront of Next Generation Sequencing Capability
The Genome Analysis Centre adds two Illumina HiSeq 2500 machines to its platform suite.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
UK Diet and Health Research Awarded £4M
Funding awarded to six projects investigating diet and health to enable the food and drink industry to meet the needs of UK consumers.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Better Understanding of Disease Resistance Genes in Crops
Effector-triggered defence concept describes how plants protect themselves against the apoplast.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Investment Provides Access to the World’s Most Advanced Crystallography Technology
The UK community will benefit thanks to a £5.64M investment from UK research funders.
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
Public-private Research Partnership to Support Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The partnership will support projects that will help provide solutions to key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Scientific News
13 Ways to Stop an Unseen Force from Disrupting Weighing
Download a free Mettler Toledo paper to discover how to halt static’s negative effects before the next weigh-in.
Flinders Ig Nobel Winner Cracks Global Anaesthetic
One of the world’s most in-demand anaesthetics can now be produced on the spot, thanks to the thermos-flask sized device that recently won Flinders University inventor Professor Colin Raston an Ig Nobel prize.
Resurrected Proteins Double Their Natural Activity
Researchers demonstrate method for reviving denatured proteins.
Genes That Protect African Children From Developing Malaria Identified
Variations in DNA at a specific location on the genome that protect African children from developing severe malaria, in some cases nearly halving a child’s chance of developing the life-threatening disease, have been identified in the largest genetic association study of malaria to date.
Messing With The Monsoon
Manmade aerosols can alter rainfall in the world’s most populous region.
Potential Target for Treatment of Autism
Grant of $2.4 million will support further research.
Scientists Decode Structure at Root of Muscular Disease
Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have unlocked the structural details of a protein seen as key to treating a neuromuscular disease.
Sniffing Out Cancer
Scientists have been exploring new ways to “smell” signs of cancer by analyzing what’s in patients’ breath.
New Test Detects All Viruses
A new test detects virtually any virus that infects people and animals, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where the technology was developed.
Inroads Against Leukemia
Potential for halting disease in molecule isolated from sea sponges.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos