MSE Research Project Database

An in-silico model of red-blood-cell and malarial parasite interactions.

Project Leader: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal
Collaborators: Leann Tilley (Bio21 Institute)
Primary Contact: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal (
Keywords: biocellular systems engineering; biomechanics; cellular geometrics; red blood cells; Systems Biology
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering,Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering,Mechanical Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences
Research Centre: Systems Biology Laboratory

Malaria is a blood bourne infectious disease, transmitted through the bite of anopheles mosquitos. Further transmission of malaria from human to human requires that the malaria parasite differentiates into a sexual form, called a gamaetocyte. This differentiation happens within the infected-host red blood cell and circulates until a mosquito draws blood. During this process, the host and parasite undergo significant biomechanical changes and escape a number of filtration systems that are in place within the body.

The aim of this project is to create biomechanical models of red blood cells and malaria parasites to (a) understand the biomechanical changes that take place during sexual differentiation and (b) to identify the advantages that these changes give to the host and parasite to escape our internal filtration mechanisms:

This project wishes to recruit a PhD student who will:

  • develop 3D visualisations of the structure and distribution of molecular components of the red blood cell and parasite
  • create finite element models that from the experimental data to simulate different filtration scenarios within the body
  •  identify how changes in structural content and organisation give rise to changes in mechanical stiffness.
  • use the in-silico model and experiments to investigate strategies to filter out these invaded host red blood cells before transmission to the next host.