Physicians do not have reliable treatment for the virus at various stages, largely because no one has been able to document the malaria parasite's journeys in the body.
Now researchers at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used advanced computer modeling and laboratory experiments to show how malaria parasites change red blood cells and how the infected cells impede blood flow to the brain and other critical organs.
Their findings, published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help doctors chart, in real time, the buildup in the body of cells infected with malaria or other diseases (such as sickle-cell anemia) and to prescribe treatment accordingly.
"The idea is to predict the evolution of these diseases, just like we predict the weather," said George Karniadakis, professor of applied mathematics at Brown and corresponding author on the paper.
The researchers worked with Plasmodium falciparum, a parasite that can cause cerebral malaria by lodging in capillaries of the brain, especially among children. The parasite is found globally but is most common in Africa.Once introduced into the human body by an infected mosquito's bite, the parasite invades red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are tremendously elastic; even though they can reach 8 microns in length and 2 microns in thickness, they can easily slide through a capillary just 3 microns in diameter. Capillaries are vital conduits in the human brain and other organs; red blood cells are key transporters of oxygen and nutrients.
"Basically what happens is the brain could be deprived of nutrients and oxygen," said Karniadakis, a member of the Center for Fluid Dynamics, Turbulence and Computation at Brown. "This happens because of the deformation of these red blood cells.
"This shows that as stiffening increases (in red blood cells), the viscosity of the blood increases, and the heart has to pump twice as much sometimes to get the same blood flow," Karniadakis added.
The researchers also found that infected red blood cells had a tendency to stick, flip, and flop along the walls of blood vessels — unlike healthy blood cells that flow in the middle of the channel. For reasons not entirely known, the infected red blood cells develop little knobby protrusions on their cellular skin that tend to stick to the surface of the blood wall, known as the endothelium. Scientists call the sticking cytoadhesion.
"So, what happens is the infected red blood cell is not only stiffer, it's slowed down by this interaction (cytoadhesion)," Karniadakis said. "This drastically changes the flow of blood in the brain, especially in the arterials and in the capillaries."
Dimitry Fedosov, first author on the paper, worked on the research as a graduate student at Brown. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Solid State Research in Germany. Bruce Caswell, professor emeritus in the School of Engineering at Brown, contributed to the research. Subra Suresh, former dean of the engineering school at MIT and now director of the National Science Foundation, also contributed to the research.
The National Institutes of Health and the NSF funded the research.
Richard Lewis | EurekAlert!
Funding of Collaborative Research Center developing nanomaterials for cancer immunotherapy extended
28.06.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Zeolite catalysts pave the road to decentral chemical processes Confined space increases reactivity
28.06.2017 | Technische Universität München
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine