Two studies led by UT Southwestern researchers shed light on the biology and potential vulnerabilities of schistosomes — parasitic flatworms that cause the little-known tropical disease schistosomiasis. The findings, published online today in Science, could change the course of this disease that kills up to 250,000 people a year.
About 240 million people around the world have schistosomiasis — mostly children in Africa, Asia, and South America in populations that represent “the poorest of the poor,” says study leader James J. Collins III, Ph.D., associate professor in UTSW’s department of pharmacology.
Most of those infected survive, but those who die often suffer organ failure or parasite-induced cancer. Symptoms can be serious enough to keep people from living productive lives, Collins says.
The parasite that causes this disease has a complicated life cycle that involves stages in both freshwater snails and mammals. Dwelling in mammalian hosts’ circulatory systems, schistosomes feed
One of the biggest challenges to the development of medical treatments for cancer is the fact that there is no single kind of cancer. Cancers derive from many kinds of cells and tissues, and each have their own characteristics, behaviors, and susceptibilities to anti-cancer drugs. A treatment that works on colon cancer might have little to no effect on lung cancer, for example.
So, to create effective treatments for a cancer, scientists seek insight into what make its cells tick. In a new paper appearing in Nature Communications, Caltech researchers show that a framework they developed, using a specialized type of microscopy, allows them to probe the metabolic processes inside cancer cells.
The work was conducted by researchers from the laboratory of Lu Wei, assistant professor of chemistry, as well as from the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle and UCLA. It utilizes a technique called Raman spectroscopy in conjunction