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.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.