High-resolution three-dimensional imaging of red blood cells parasitized by Plasmodium falciparum and in situ hemozoin crystals using optical diffraction tomography

J Biomed Opt. 2014 Jan;19(1):011005. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.19.1.011005.


We present high-resolution optical tomographic images of human red blood cells (RBC) parasitized by malaria-inducing Plasmodium falciparum (Pf)-RBCs. Three-dimensional (3-D) refractive index (RI) tomograms are reconstructed by recourse to a diffraction algorithm from multiple two-dimensional holograms with various angles of illumination. These 3-D RI tomograms of Pf-RBCs show cellular and subcellular structures of host RBCs and invaded parasites in fine detail. Full asexual intraerythrocytic stages of parasite maturation (ring to trophozoite to schizont stages) are then systematically investigated using optical diffraction tomography algorithms. These analyses provide quantitative information on the structural and chemical characteristics of individual host Pf-RBCs, parasitophorous vacuole, and cytoplasm. The in situ structural evolution and chemical characteristics of subcellular hemozoin crystals are also elucidated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Hemeproteins / chemistry*
  • Holography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Malaria, Falciparum / blood
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / chemistry*
  • Refractometry
  • Tomography / methods*


  • Hemeproteins
  • hemozoin