Seaweed may provide new drugs to fight malaria

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WASHINGTON - Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology say that a type of tropical seaweed may hold the key to producing the next generation of treatments for malaria.

A group of chemical compounds used by a species of tropical seaweed to ward off fungus attacks may have promising anti-malarial properties for humans.

The compounds are part of a unique chemical signaling system that seaweeds use to battle enemies - and that may provide a wealth of potential new pharmaceutical compounds.

Using a novel analytical process, researchers found that the complex antifungal molecules are not distributed evenly across the seaweed surfaces, but instead appear to be concentrated at specific locations - possibly where an injury increases the risk of fungal infection.

The class of compounds is known as bromophycolides.

“These molecules are promising leads for the treatment of malaria, and they operate through an interesting mechanism that we are studying,” said Julia Kubanek, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Biology and School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“There are only a couple of drugs left that are effective against malaria in all areas of the world, so we are hopeful that these molecules will continue to show promise as we develop them further as pharmaceutical leads.”

The new findings have been reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C. (ANI)

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