Holograms offer hope in fight against malaria, study suggests

November 5, 2013
A male malaria parasite with sperm is seen among red blood cells. Credit: University of Edinburgh

Scientists have developed a 3D filming technique that could help inform research to stem the spread of malaria.

Creating moving digital holograms of sperm has given researchers fresh insights into the behaviour of these tiny life forms.

Understanding how malaria parasites mate could pave the way for improved prevention and control of this , which poses a threat to half of the world's population.

Malaria parasites mate in the gut of mosquitoes, and people can catch the disease when they are bitten by these infected, blood-sucking insects.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Rowland Institute at Harvard University were able to see that malaria sperm move in an irregular, lopsided corkscrew motion, which enables them to twist to the left or the right, as well as go forwards and backwards. This motion is thought to help the sperm swim between to find female mates.

Malaria sperm use microscopic structures, known as flagella, to swim. These structures are important because they are used by many parasites to invade parts of the body. They also perform essential roles in embryonic development, reproduction, and in all animals. Scientists say the simple structure of the malaria sperm makes it an excellent model system in which to study flagella in animals.

Dr Sarah Reece, Royal Society Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and one of the authors of the study, said: "Findings gained using our unique system provide us with a better understanding of how malaria parasites mate and spread this deadly disease, and have revealed that malaria sperm, and similar organisms, have greater freedom of movement than was previously thought."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Explore further: Travelers push US malaria count highest in 40 yrs

Related Stories

Travelers push US malaria count highest in 40 yrs

October 31, 2013
U.S. malaria cases are at their highest level in four decades, mostly from Americans bringing home an unwelcome souvenir from their travels.

Viruses common complication in malaria patients

September 24, 2013
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown that viral brain infections may be a more important killer in African children than was previously thought.

Malaria study suggests drugs should target female parasites

November 28, 2012
Fresh insight into the parasite that causes malaria suggests a new way to develop drugs and vaccines to tackle the disease.

Cross-species malaria immunity induced by chemically attenuated parasites

July 1, 2013
Malaria, a mosquito-born infectious disease, kills over 600,000 people every year. Research has focused on the development of a vaccine to prevent the disease; however, many malaria vaccines targeting parasite antigens have ...

No idle chatter: Study finds malaria parasites 'talk' to each other

May 15, 2013
Melbourne scientists have made the surprise discovery that malaria parasites can 'talk' to each other – a social behaviour to ensure the parasite's survival and improve its chances of being transmitted to other humans.

Bacterial infection in mosquitoes renders them immune to malaria parasites

May 9, 2013
Scientists funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, have established an inheritable bacterial infection in malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosquitoes ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

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.