Activating the Immune System to Fight Disease

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Allison Demas, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher

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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.