One-celled parasites that accumulate in large groups in the salivary glands of mosquitoes before transmission to humans are stopped from moving, unless this restriction is lifted by means of appropriate experimental preparation. In just such experiments, researchers at Heidelberg University have designed the pathogens in motion and analysed the acquired image data using cutting-edge techniques of image processing. These findings demonstrate that the collectively moving pathogens form vortex systems that are mostly determined by physical principles.
Collective movement is a common phenomenon in the natural world. Insects and fish, for example, they travel in swarms. Collective movement is mainly involved in the cellular level, such as when cancer cells migrate from a tumour or a bacteria form a biofilm. In science, collectivity is the foundation of new features that would otherwise exist in this form. Plasmodium is also found in an interdisciplinary study conducted by Prof. Dr Friedrich Frischknecht (biomedical image analysis) and Prof
The single-celled organism is injected into the skin by a mosquito bite, which grows first in the liver, then later in the blood. Because Plasmodium is quite a fraction of its initial stages, it now has a long and narrow pattern, similar to a crescent moon. This is because it is successful only if a pathogen hits the blood stream. Prof. Frischknecht
In their experiments at the Center for Infectious Diseases of Heidelberg University Hospital, Friedrich Frischknecht and his team discovered that the parasites in infected salivary glands can be mobilised as a collective. To do this, the salivary glands are then carefully pressed between two small glass plates. However, these differences are observed in the collective movement of bacteria or fish, although they may vary in size. These differences are therefore beneficial to the growth of the cells in larger vortices.
The experimental data was quantitatively analyzed. These groups, led by Ulrich Schwarz and Karl Rohr, the head of the Biomedical Computer Vision Group, developed advanced algorithms of image processing to determine the individual pathogens'' velocity and curvature. These techniques were able to pinpoint the laws that can be used in the parasite vortices, thus allowing them to be used for technical applications in the future.
The researchers will investigate exactly how the chirality of movement comes about. In experiments with genetic mutations, the structure of sporozoites suggests different possibilities that can be investigated. In any event, our study has shown that the right- and left-turning parasites quickly segregate and generate separate vortex systems. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms may also lead to new avenues for medical intervention.