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Cell biology researchers discover new treatment

Friday, October 18, 2013 - 10:55am

Researchers in the department of cellular biology have discovered that a combination of two commonly prescribed drugs used to treat high cholesterol and osteoporosis may serve as the foundation of a new treatment for toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii.

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite capable of infecting nearly all warm-blooded animals. While healthy human adults usually suffer no lasting ill effects from infection, it can be harmful or fatal to unborn fetuses or those with weakened immune systems.

"For many years, therapies for toxoplasmosis have focused on drugs that target only the parasite," said Silvia Moreno, senior author of the article and professor of cellular biology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "But in this paper, we show how we can hit the parasite with two drugs simultaneously, one that affects body chemistry in the host and one that affects the parasite."

The UGA researchers discovered that a combination of the cholesterol lowering drug atorvastatin and osteoporosis medication zoledronic acid, both more commonly known by their respective trade names, Lipitor and Zometa, produce changes in the mammalian host and in the parasite that ultimately block parasite replication and spread of the infection.

"These two drugs have a strong synergy," said Moreno, who is also a member of UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. "The mice we treated were cured from a lethal infection using this combination approach."

Great news and more great work from our faculty. The Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases draws on a strong foundation of Franklin College units - cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics  -  and gives our researchers a platform for collaboration in service of developing medical and public health interventions for at-risk populations. This discovery is but one of the possible outcomes when faculty are provided the support and facilities necessary for work at the interface of multiple disciplines.

Image: Pretty picture of a horrible intracellular human parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, shown here constructing daughter scaffolds within the mother cell. Via a Creative Commons Attribution.

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