Newly Discovered Protein An Important Tool For Sleeping Sickness Research
Published: Mar 01, 2005
Sixty million people in 36 countries of sub-Saharan Africa are threatened daily by a deadly parasitic disease known as African sleeping sickness. The disease is caused by organisms called trypanosomes, which are spread by the tsetse fly. African sleeping sickness affects approximately 500,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa, a quarter of whom will die this year. Because the trypanosome has an exceptional genetic strategy for evading the human immune system and resisting treatment, the current treatment for this disease is melarsopal, an antiquated drug with terrible side effects, including death. In the February issue (Volume 17, Issue 3) of the journal Molecular Cell, scientists in the Marine Biological Laboratory's (MBL's) Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution report their discovery of a protein called JBP2, which will help them test their hypothesis that a uniquely modified DNA base called base J is a key component of the trypanosome's mechanism for evading the immune system. If the hypothesis is correct, it will bring scientists closer to developing a more effective drug for treating African sleeping sickness.