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The function and dynamic of cholesterol during Plasmodium liver stage infection

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A new approach to treating malaria

One of the most infectious diseases of our times, Malaria, may see a radically different treatment being developed, based on cholesterol behaviour in the liver.

Health

Malaria is a serious infectious disease caused by parasites that are carried by mosquitoes. It kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. The EU-funded project 'The function and dynamic of cholesterol during Plasmodium liver stage infection' (LIPID & Infection) looked at new ways to combat this serious disease. While many solutions target the carrier mosquito itself, the project aimed to target plasmodium parasites that cause the disease. These parasites begin by infecting hepatocyte cells in the liver where the plasmodium multiplies into thousands of merozoites that infect the bloodstream. A protein in the liver that plays a role in cholesterol absorption, called SR-BI, also plays a pivotal role in the invasion and development of plasmodium. Based on this, the project investigated the connection between cholesterol uptake and hepatocyte infection by plasmodium. It used different approaches in cell biology such as live imaging to demonstrate that cholesterol uptake is important for development of Plasmodium liver stage. In effect, the LIPID & Infection project underlined a new route for plasmodium to grow in the liver and infect the bloodstream. This could prove valuable in developing new therapies to combat malaria that are cholesterol based. Such a discovery would position the EU as a leader in battling infectious diseases and could potentially save the lives of millions of people.

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