Microstructured Blood Vessel Surrogates Reveal Structural Tropism of Motile Malaria Parasites
Authors: Muthinja MJ, Ripp J, Hellmann JK, Haraszti T, Dahan N, Lemgruber L, Battista A, Schütz L, Fackler OT, Schwarz US, Spatz JP, Frischknecht F
CellNetworks People: Fackler Oliver, Frischknecht Friedrich, Schwarz Ulrich, Spatz Joachim
Journal: Adv Healthc Mater. 2017 Jan 24. doi: 10.1002/adhm.201601178

Plasmodium sporozoites, the highly motile forms of the malaria parasite, are transmitted naturally by mosquitoes and traverse the skin to find, associate with, and enter blood capillaries. Research aimed at understanding how sporozoites select blood vessels is hampered by the lack of a suitable experimental system. Arrays of uniform cylindrical pillars can be used to study small cells moving in controlled environments. Here, an array system displaying a variety of pillars with different diameters and shapes is developed in order to investigate how Plasmodium sporozoites associate to the pillars as blood vessel surrogates. Investigating the association of sporozoites to pillars in arrays displaying pillars of different diameters reveals that the crescent-shaped parasites prefer to associate with and migrate around pillars with a similar curvature. This suggests that after transmission by a mosquito, malaria parasites may use a structural tropism to recognize blood capillaries in the dermis in order to gain access to the blood stream.