The research confirmed some of the predictions of gene expression in the just-completed gene map of T. cruzi. It also showed, for the first time, which genes express proteins in the four development stages.
"This provides a wealth of interesting biology we didn't know before, but it also gives us ways to put the information to use," said Tarleton. "What we found on stage specificity and abundance of protein expression provides new criteria for selecting vaccine targets. Additional information on the expression of large gene families may influence decisions on their utility as vaccine candidates."
While the proteome analysis, in conjunction with the genome, provides new avenues for drug and vaccine discovery, limitations remain. Unlike the genome, which provides a comprehensive view of the entire organism, the proteomes are partial and preliminary.
"Unfortunately, current technology doesn't allow for the easy detection of very low abundance proteins," said Tarleton. "Also, it can look only at relative expression of proteins in different stages."
Still, understanding how proteins work in T. cruzi is an important first step toward helping end the misery that plagues so many people. Researchers estimate than around 90 million people are at risk for Chagas Disease. In endemic areas, it is associated with other parasitic diseases, tuberculosis, HIV and malnutrition as a typical "social disease" among the rural poor.
Blood transfusions tainted with T. cruzi are also a serious problem in South America, and costs associated with control and treatment run into the billions of dollars each year. While the disease is rare in the United St
Contact: Kim Carlyle
University of Georgia