September 15, 2008

Scientists Purify Parasites With Light

British and Scottish scientists say they've come up with a better way to separate parasites from their host cells, allowing detailed studies of their proteins.

The researchers, led by Toni Aebischer of the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research at the University of Edinburgh, said their new method will allow a thorough analysis of proteins involved in parasitic organisms. That, in turn, might be tremendously useful for drug or vaccine development, Aebischer said.

Until now, the scientists said, it's been extremely difficult to separate the parasites from their host cell, a process called purification, for detailed study.

Aebischer and colleagues said they worked around the problem by designing special fluorescent Leishmania mexicana -- one of the many Leishmaniases parasites -- and then passed infected cells through a machine that can separate cell components based on how much they glow. Using that approach, the researchers separated the Leishmania parasites with only about 2 percent contamination, which is far better than current methods.

The study is detailed in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.