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Parasite evades death by promoting host cell survival
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The parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (or T. cruzi), which causes Chagas' disease, will go to great lengths to evade death once it has infected human host cells, researchers have discovered. In a study published in the November 17 online issue of Science Signaling, the researchers describe how a protein called parasite-derived neurotrophic factor (PDNF) prolongs the life of the T. cruzi parasite by activating anti-apoptotic (or anti-cell-death) molecules in the host cell. These protective mechanisms help to explain how host cells continue to survive despite being exploited by T. cruzi parasites.

"We asked ourselves, 'How is it possible that the host cells stay alive for so long with thousands of T. cruzi parasites consuming the host cell's vital resources?' We discovered that PDNF on the surface of the T. cruzi parasite essentially inhibits cell death signals and activates cell-protective mechanisms, ensuring T. cruzi sufficient time to develop and reproduce in the host cell," says senior author Mercio Perrin, MD, PhD, professor in the pathology department at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and member of the immunology program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

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