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October 19th, 2005
A major reason why malaria is so deadly is that red blood cells infected with the parasite become too stiff to squeeze through narrow capillaries, and so get stuck inside major organs. Yet microbiologists have not been able to take precise measurements of changes in the stiffness and other mechanical properties of cells -- information that could shed light on the how malaria, as well as other diseases, progress, and how to treat them.
Now Subra Suresh, an engineer and materials scientist at MIT, is adapting nanotechnology tools such as optical tweezers to make those measurements -- and in doing so has found that scientists have seriously underestimated the changes that malaria causes inside cells.
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