The prevailing theory was that antimalarial drugs prevented crystal growth by binding to the free heme molecules in the solution, but that theory would be proved wrong by Rimer and Vekilov. The pair developed an innovative platform to study hematin crystal growth at the microscopic level in nearly in-situ conditions. Then they showed a significantly higher and possibly toxic concentration of drugs are necessary to inhibit the growth of hematin crystals by binding to the free heme molecules.
Instead they found the drugs bind at six specific sites at the surface of the crystals, blocking the attachment of hematin. Eventually the accumulation of toxic heme in the parasite’s digestive vacuole spells its death.
The duo’s latest paper looks more closely at these binding sites with an eye on designing new, more effective drug treatments for the deadly disease.