Chemistry and Biochemistry

Stopping a Tiny — and Deadly — Fly in its Tracks

Posted: Jul 06, 2018

Sixty million people in sub-Saharan Africa live at risk of African sleeping sickness, a disease caused by parasites transmitted through the tsetse fly. In the late stage of the disease, when the parasite crosses the blood-brain barrier, the results are oftentimes fatal.

BYU chemistry professor Ken Christensen, students and collaborators at Clemson University have developed an innovative technique using biosensors to monitor the glucose level of Trypanasoma brucei parasites, which could in turn help develop treatments for the sleeping sickness.

“The unique thing about the T. brucei parasite is that it relies on host glucose for survival,” said Christensen, whose study was recently published in top-ranked journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. “We know that if you could deprive the parasites in the blood stream of glucose, the parasite will die.”

For the study, Christensen tested glucose levels to monitor the metabolism of the parasites using a genetically-encoded glucose biosensor. The biosensor combines three proteins: a cyan florescent protein, a glucose-binding protein, and a yellow florescent protein.

 

Read the full YNews article here