We already know everyone’s favorite echinoderm is a far-eastern delicacy, has purported aphrodisiac qualities, and is a real life shape shifter even J. K. Rowling couldn’t dream up… but according to an international team of scientists, the under appreciated sea cucumber may just be a veritable miracle worker to boot!
It’s like the second coming… errr, for holothurians.
From PLoS Pathogens:
Malaria is arguably the most important vector-borne disease worldwide, affecting 300 million people and killing 1-2 million people every year. The lack of an effective vaccine and the emergence of the parasites’ resistance to many existing anti-malarial drugs have aggravated the situation. Clearly, development of novel strategies for control of the disease is urgently needed. Mosquitoes are obligatory vectors for the disease and inhibition of parasite development in the mosquito has considerable promise as a new approach in the fight against malaria. Based on recent advances in the genetic engineering of mosquitoes, the concept of generating genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes that hinder transmission by either killing or interfering with parasite development is a potential means of controlling the disease. To generate these GM mosquitoes, the authors focused on a unique lectin isolated from the sea cucumber, which has both hemolytic and cytotoxic activities, as an anti-parasite effector molecule. A transgenic mosquito expressing the lectin effectively caused erythrocyte lysis in the midgut after ingestion of an infectious blood meal and severely impaired parasite development. This laboratory-acquired finding may provide significant implications for future malaria control using GM mosquitoes refractory to the parasites.
Yet another reason to marvel at the ever charismatic cuke–and I couldn’t be prouder of the little guys!