Breaking down brain barrier breaches in cerebral malaria

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Recent findings have linked brain swelling to death in cerebral malaria (CM). These observations have prompted a number of investigations into the mechanisms of this pathology with the goal of identifying potential therapeutic targets. In this issue of the JCI, Gallego-Delgado and colleagues present evidence that implicates angiotensin receptors and the relocation of β-catenin to the endothelial cell nucleus in CM. This study provides a renewed focus on infected erythrocyte debris as the cause of endothelial damage and challenges previous work implicating direct effects of infected erythrocyte sequestration in the brain as the major driver of disease. While this work provides potential therapeutic avenues for CM, it leaves a number of questions unanswered.

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