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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 August 2007, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Funding for research on parasites
A schematic diagram of an anti-parasite drug target
The scientists will use images like this to develop treatments
Dundee University has received 1.5m to carry out research into parasites that cause some of the developing world's most serious diseases.

Illnesses such as African sleeping sickness and Chagas' disease kill tens of thousands of people every year.

Scientists have received a grant from the Wellcome Trust to study the biology of the parasites' defence mechanisms, using special 3-D X-ray images.

The information will then be used to develop new treatments.

The grant will provide funding for five new staff and essential equipment.

Sleeping sickness is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa
It is passed on by the tsetse fly
It is fatal if left untreated

The trust has previously awarded Dundee University's School of Life Sciences 8.1m to develop new drugs to fight tropical diseases.

This latest research team, led by Professor Bill Hunter, will focus on how to stop the parasites.

He said: "We need to develop new knowledge about the parasites which cause diseases such as African sleeping sickness, diseases for which the current treatments are inadequate.

Chagas' disease is spread by bites from beetle-like bugs
Many patients do not realise they have been infected
Drugs are toxic and only cure some patients in the early stages of infection

"We also need to improve our understanding of parasite biology - how they work, how they stay alive, what makes them tick essentially.

"That leads to the second stage of the research, which is how do we stop them working and how we can develop the chemical tools which will do just that."

The scientists want to find out how enzymes in the parasites protect them in the human immune system.

The team will build a detailed picture of the chemical structure by shining X-rays through crystals made from the enzymes.

That information will also be used to try and develop new drugs for malaria and tuberculosis.

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