One of the main reasons that malaria is so deadly is because the cells infected by the parasite become too rigid to pass through the capillaries and get stuck inside the main organs.
Microbiologists have not yet been able to take precise measurements of changes in the stiffness and other mechanical properties of cells. This information could shed light on how malaria, as well as other diseases, progresses and how to treat it.
Now Subra Suresh, a materials science engineer at MIT, is adapting nanotechnology tools such as optical tweezers to make such measurements. And in doing so he has found that scientists have seriously underestimated the changes that Malaria causes within cells.
Micromechanics as a tool
What's more, Suresh's work is the beginning of research in this promising field. Its success has helped spark the formation of a new consortium, announced last week, that will tackle major health problems - malaria, cancer, heart disease - using micromechanics.
Source: MIT, Technology Review, Nanotools Probe Malaria