Activating the Immune System to Fight Disease

Activating the Immune System to Fight Disease

Allison Demas, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher

Koch Institute at MIT, Institute of Medical Engineering and Science

These images show natural killer (NK) cells activated by immune complexes of malaria parasites and anti-malaria antibodies. Malaria is transmitted by the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes. The parasite first travels to the liver, where it multiplies exponentially in an asymptomatic form. If we could develop a vaccine against this initial stage, we could prevent disease and save lives. Understanding how antibodies and immune cells interact with the parasite will help us develop such a vaccine.

Our preliminary findings suggested that NK cells were interacting with extracellular malaria parasites in the presence of anti-malaria antibodies to inhibit parasite entry of the liver. We used SEM to visualize these interactions to better understand this process.

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