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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).

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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.

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