Researcher invents 'lab on a chip' device to study malaria

February 28, 2012

University of British Columbia researcher Hongshen Ma has developed a simple and accurate device to study malaria, a disease that currently affects 500 million people per year worldwide and claims a million lives.

Spread by , malaria is caused by a tiny parasite that infects . Ma and his team designed a "lab on a chip" device to better understand the changes in red blood cells caused by , the most common species of malaria parasites.

Ma explains the device will help those conducting laboratory research or evaluate the efficacy of different compounds in treating malaria – a disease that is increasingly resistant to drugs.

"Our results show that it's possible to precisely measure the stiffening of red blood cells caused by the parasite at various stages of infection," says Ma, assistant professor in the UBC departments of mechanical engineering and urologic sciences, and senior research scientist at the Vancouver Prostate Center.

Normal human red blood cells must squeeze through capillaries many times smaller than their own diameter in order to deliver oxygen to all tissues in the body. Red blood cells infected with malaria gradually lose this capability, which disrupts blood flow, causing failure of vital organs and eventually death.

Measuring 2" x 1" (50 cm x 25 cm), Ma's microfluidic device deforms single through a series of funnel-shaped constrictions. The pressure required to push the cell through each constriction is measured and then used to calculate the cell's deformability.

By measuring the deformability of an infected red blood cell, researchers can obtain vital information about the status of the disease and response to treatment, explains Ma, whose findings appear in the current issue of the journal Lab on a Chip.

Ma notes that although there has been considerable research on the biomechanics of malaria, "current methods to measure red cell deformability are either too complex to be used in clinical settings or are not sensitive enough."

Explore further: Sickle cell anemia as malaria defense

Related Stories

Sickle cell anemia as malaria defense

November 30, 2011
Sickle cell anemia causes pain, fatigue and delayed growth, all because of a lack of enough healthy red blood cells. And yet genetic mutations that cause it - recessive genes for the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin protein - have ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover key signaling protein for muscle growth

November 20, 2017
Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., ...

New breast cell types discovered by multidisciplinary research team

November 20, 2017
A joint effort by breast cancer researchers and bioinformaticians has provided new insights into the molecular changes that drive breast development.

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.