Biotechnology-2014: Nanotechnology against malariaAuthor(s): Xavier Fernāndez-Busquets
Malaria is arguably one of the main medical concerns worldwide because of the numbers of people affected, the severity of the disease and the complexity of the life cycle of its causative agent, the protist Plasmodium sp. The clinical, social and economic burden of malaria has led for the last 100 years to several waves of serious efforts to reach its control and eventual eradication, without success to this day. With the advent of nanoscience, renewed hopes have appeared of finally obtaining the long sought-after magic bullet against malaria in the form of a nanovector for the targeted delivery of antimalarial compounds exclusively to Plasmodium-infected cells, thus increasing drug efficacy and minimizing the induction of resistance to newlydeveloped therapeutic agents. Different types of liposomal and polymeric encapsulating structures and of targeting molecules based on proteins, polysaccharides and nucleic acids will be discussed for the assembly of nanocapsules capable of specifically delivering to diseased cells their antimalarial cargo. LEGO-like exchange of the nanovector parts can allow for the targeting of different cell stages in the life cycle of Plasmodium. Nanotechnology can also be applied to the discovery of new antimalarials through single-molecule manipulation approaches for the identification of novel drugs blocking essential metabolic pathwaysof the pathogen. The benefits and drawbacks of these nanosystems will be considered in different possible scenarios, including cost-related issues that might be hampering the development of nanotechnology-based medicines against malaria with the dubious argument that they are too expensive to be used in developing areas.