“Structure is the starting point for understanding any protein!”
Dr Amy Goundry (front, right) is currently a post-doctoral research associate from the lab of Ana Paula Lima (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). Amy’s career to date has focussed on one, puzzling protein. “Inhibitor of Serine Peptidase 2” (ISP2), is a protein found in Leishmania parasites, enabling them to infect their mammalian (including human) hosts. Serine peptidases are enzymes with key roles in health and disease, appearing in organisms everywhere from viruses and bacteria to humans – everywhere that is, except in Leishmania. Once a sandfly bite has introduced Leishmania parasites into the body of a mammal host, they must quickly infect white blood cells, and modify the behaviour of these cells, in order to survive. The parasites produce ISP2, which inactivates white blood cell serine peptidases and halts the immune response.
“…but after more than a decade of research, we still don’t know how ISP2 works!”
This puzzle has brought Amy to Durham University for a 5-week secondment with our structural biologists – Dr Ehmke Pohl and the crystallography team.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is endemic across most of the Middle East, and is currently expanding into new areas. This August, CL specialists Professor Iqbal Choudhary (Pakistan HUB leader) and Dr Sammer Yousuf, from the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi, journeyed to connect with colleagues from the Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Durham and York. Their visit consolidated plans for a training workshop, “New Anti-leishmanial Leads from Natural Sources: Concepts and Approaches” at the ICCBS on 8th-9th November, following the “7th annual Symposium on Molecular Medicine and Drug Research” at the University of Karachi, 4th-7th November. The NTD Network is collaborating with the University of Karachi to support early career researchers (ECRs) from Middle Eastern countries to attend both events.
After a long wait, a piece of vital equipment, the “CFX96 Touch™ Real-Time PCR Detection System”, co-funded by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and the University of Karachi, has now arrived at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). The machine (a white box with screen – visible in the right of the picture) now enables Network members Iqbal Choudhary, Sammer Yousuf and the Karachi team to use the polymerase chain reaction technique (PCR) DNA amplifying technology to identify genetic variations between strains of Leishmania parasites, causing leishmaniasis. This purchase is also a behind-the-scenes administrative triumph for international collaboration, highlighting some of the bureaucratic difficulties we navigate with our NTD Network colleagues in developing countries.
The second Centre for Global Infectious Diseases (CGID) annual meeting, a joint venture Durham University and the University of Newcastle, took place today at the Newcastle Medical School, hosted by our colleagues from the Newcastle University Fungal Research team. This year’s programme showcased some of the engaging research into global infections that takes place across the northeast UK, and gave particular emphasis to early career researchers working on globally-significant diseases, many of which impact developing countries. … Continue reading
This March, 2019, a diverse group of 28 students gathered at Kolkata’s Indian Institute for Chemical Biology, for a workshop providing practical skills in genetic manipulation of Leishmania parasites using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. These new skills will transform their careers, and in time may improve the lives of people affected by leishmaniasis, a global problem which poses a risk to the lives of millions of people in India and Pakistan alone.
Prior to delivering a workshop at the University of São Paolo (USP) Ribeirão Preto campus, UK Network members Patrick Steel, Paul Denny, Ehmke Pohl and colleagues from USP and Durham University, spent a day exploring. The Serra da Canastra national park in Minas Gerais, the origin of the São Francisco river, is home to a tropical and scrubby forest, known to these scientists as USP professor Noberto Lopes’ “chemical hunting ground”. The workshop, “Development and evaluation of bioactive compounds” (March 25th-29th 2019; funded by Brazil’s Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) ‘SPRINT’ initiative), equipped ~40 Brazilian postgraduate students with skills to source novel chemicals from plants, fungi and animals. USP’s natural products library already holds many naturally-sourced compounds new to science, but more are needed – as leads for new medicines to treat the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affecting Brazil and other developing countries. On this hot day, the team veer off a well-trodden path to go exploring in the forest, taking in spectacular waterfalls and an impromptu swim.
February 20th, 2019, and Dr Julia Cricco (right) gathers her research team at the National University of Rosario (UNR), Argentina, to greet the new arrival; a small, grey box… This unremarkable-looking machine is a ‘Nucleofector’ from Lonza, purchased with Equipment Fund support from the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This device will transform the speed at which Julia’s group can progress towards identifying valid biological targets for developing new drugs against Chagas disease. The arrival of this one small box is therefore much celebrated, provoking excitement and big smiles all round!
Congratulations to NTD Network PhD student Mr Douglas Escrivani Olivera, winner of the Zigman Brener award!
Douglas is studying for a PhD; he is based with NTD Network member Professor Bartira Rossi-Bergmann at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and is co-supervised by Professor Patrick Steel, from Durham University, UK.
The Zigman Brenner award for best research poster is given annually at the Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society of Parasitology (SBPz)/XLV AnnualMeeting on Basic Research in Chagas’ Disease, held in November each year in Cazambu, Minas Gerais, Brazil.