Refractive index maps and membrane dynamics of human red blood cells parasitized by Plasmodium falciparum

Yong Keun Park, Monica Diez-Silva, Gabriel Popescu, George Lykotrafitis, Wonshik Choi, Michael S. Feld, Subra Suresh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

571 Citations (Scopus)


Parasitization by malaria-inducing Plasmodium falciparum leads to structural, biochemical, and mechanical modifications to the host red blood cells (RBCs). To study these modifications, we investigate two intrinsic indicators: the refractive index and membrane fluctuations in P. falciparum-invaded human RBCs (Pf-RBCs). We report experimental connections between these intrinsic indicators and pathological states. By employing two noninvasive optical techniques, tomographic phase microscopy and diffraction phase microscopy, we extract three-dimensional maps of refractive index and nanoscale cell membrane fluctuations in isolated RBCs. Our systematic experiments cover all intraerythrocytic stages of parasite development under physiological and febrile temperatures. These findings offer potential, and sufficiently general, avenues for identifying, through cell membrane dynamics, pathological states that cause or accompany human diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13730-13735
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Sept 16
Externally publishedYes


  • Erythrocyte
  • Febrile temperature
  • Malaria
  • Mechanical properties
  • Optical techniques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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