Quantitative analysis of morphological alterations in Plasmodium falciparum infected red blood cells through theoretical interpretation of spectral measurements

J Theor Biol. 2010 Aug 21;265(4):493-500. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.05.037.


Spectroscopic analysis can provide valuable insights into morphological and biochemical cellular transformations caused by diseases. However, traditional spectroscopic methods and the corresponding spectral interpretation approaches have been challenged by the complexities of the cell shape, orientation, and internal structure. Here we present an elegant spectral interpretation model that enables accurate quantitative analysis of the UV-visible spectra of red blood cells (RBCs) parasitized by the lethal human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The model is based on the modified Mie theory (MMT) approach that incorporates the effects of the nonsphericity and orientation and multilayered cell structure to account for complex composition of the infected RBCs (IRBCs). We determine the structure and composition of the IRBCs and address unresolved matters over the alterations induced by the intraerythrocytic development of P. falciparum. The results indicate deformation and swelling of the IRBCs during the trophozoite stage of P. falciparum that is followed by substantial shrinkage during the schizont stages. We determine that up to 90% depletion of hemoglobin from the RBC cytosol does not lead to a net loss of iron from the infected cells. We quantitatively follow the morphological changes in the parasites during the intraerythrocytic development by applying the interpretation model to the UV-visible spectroscopic measurements of the IRBCs. We expect this method of quantitative spectroscopic characterization of the diseased cells to have practical clinical utility for rapid diagnosis, therapeutic monitoring, and drug susceptibility testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Shape*
  • Erythrocytes / cytology*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Models, Biological*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet / methods*