Lighting up Cells to Study Malaria

Lighting up Cells to Study Malaria

From Dr. Min Zhang, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Pathology, New York University Medical Center, New York, NY


Field of Research: Cellular biology


Image Caption: GFP-tagging was used to identify the sporozoite stage in the malaria parasite lifecycle.


The field of cellular biology uses various tools and techniques to study the fundamental basis of life. Cells are tiny powerhouses that perform vital functions and work together in a group to make up the organ systems in our body. Research in cellular biology has revealed a great wealth of information that has informed the development of therapies for cancer, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, and many others.

This image shows a sneak peak into the lifecycle of the plasmodium parasite (the malaria parasite). Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagging is a common technique that is used to visualize and study cells under the microscope or in a living organism. By using techniques such as GFP, researchers can illuminate certain types of cells that they are interested in studying. In order to develop more effective treatments, researchers must first acquire a comprehensive understanding of how an organism, in this case, malaria, grows into an infectious parasite.

In this image, GFP was used to identify the sporozoite stage of the parasite, the cells that develop in mosquitoes’ salivary glands. After a mosquito has consumed a blood meal, the sporozoites enter the liver where they grow and multiple. This type of research is crucial both our understanding of basic cellular biology as well as malaria infection.

Learn more about Dr. Zhang’s research:

Zhang M, Mishra S, Sakthivel R, Fontoura BM, & Nussenzweig V. PLoS Pathog (2016)

Huang J, Tsao T, Zhang M, Rai U, Tsuji M, Li X. Front Microbiol (2015)

Huang J, Li X, Coelho-Dos-Reis JG, et al. J Immunol Methods (2015)


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