There are many ways to tackle an epidemic like malaria – one is to go on the attack. Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) is a parasite that carries the disease but it also relies on a protein called Hsp90 to survive. Pharmacologists are examining the chemical structure of Hsp90 (purple) looking for weaknesses – the bobbly surface hides cracks and holes which drug molecules can slot into, changing the way the protein behaves. This virtual approach speeds up expensive drug design – identifying a yellow-coloured compound that fits into a specific 'pocket' of Hsp90, stopping it from working and potentially killing the Pf parasite. Sometimes it can seem like a long way from the lab bench to the real world, yet here is a process that can now be used to quickly 'screen' large numbers of anti-malaria chemicals, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Written by John Ankers
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