Malaria study goes cosmic

Malaria study goes cosmic

Scientists sent malaria parasite proteins into space. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Scientists sent malaria parasite proteins into space. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Thai and Japanese scientists have sent malaria parasite proteins into space in order to understand their structure and develop better treatments.

The project is a joint venture between Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) and Thailand's Geo-Informatics and Space Technology (Gistda)

In the project, a protein extracted from parasites which cause malaria was loaded onto Dragon-X, a capsule in orbit since July 26, and sent around the Earth for 30 days.

"Protein crystallisation in zero gravity conditions give a better picture than on Earth," Ammarin Phimnu, a researcher with Gistda told media the yesterday.

This will help scientists to see the structure as they mount efforts to invest a new drug to kill the disease, he added.

The Dragon-X capsule used to keep protein crystals returned to Earth last week. It landed nearly 483 kilometres off Long Beach in southern California.

It was retrieved from an area off the southern coast of California and sent back to Jaxa and subsequently to Thailand.

Mr Ammarin said scientists from both countries will use laser beams created by synchrotron technology to study the genetic structure of the protein in Malaria in a bid to understand how it reacts with medicine and how it manages to develop drug resistance.

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