Malaria parasite’s invasion of blood cells tweezed apart

Plasmodium falciparum

With laser-based tweezers, scientists can yank around Plasmodium falciparum cells (purple) and measure the strength of their interactions with red blood cells (brown).

Dr. Osaro Erhabor/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Using extremely tiny tweezers made with a laser, scientists are beginning to pull apart how the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum invades red blood cells. Measurements made with the laser-based tweezers show that the cellular interactions between a malaria-causing parasite and a red blood cell are relatively weak. The results, published August 19 in the Biophysics Journal, suggest that these weak interactions could be blocked with a combination of drugs or antibodies, possibly offering a way to squash the spread of the infectious disease.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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