Dartmouth Medical School gene targeting discovery opens door for vaccines and drugs

Hanover, NH–In a genetic leap that could help fast track vaccine and drug development to prevent or tame serious global diseases, DMS researchers have discovered how to destroy a key DNA pathway in a wily and widespread human parasite. The feat surmounts a major hurdle for targeting genes in Toxoplasma gondii, an infection model whose close relatives are responsible for diseases that include malaria and severe diarrhea.

"This opens a wide window on a complex parasite family and can help accelerate the development of safe and effective genetically modified vaccines and drug therapies," says team leader David Bzik, PHD, professor of microbiology and immunology. The work is reported in the April issue of Eukaryotic Cell with Barbara Fox, senior research associate of microbiology and immunology who is the lead author and innovator of the study.

Parasites steal shamelessly from their hosts, co-opting resources to survive and infect. T gondii, however is a clever contrarian: it invites destruction and goes underground.

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