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Holographic microscopy reveals behaviour of human cell-infecting Leishmania parasites

30 July 2021

Holo Victory

Put on your 3D glasses now! Here a 3D effect known as an anaglyph mimics how the parasite Leishmania mexicana swims with different speeds and trajectories – some may be coming straight at you by way of a stereoscopic illusion. The video is actually based on research using another 3D technique – holograms. By comparing light patterns around the wriggling parasites, holographic microscopy tracks their movement in 3D – reconstructing (and here simulating) how their tails, or flagella, propel them through human blood. Researchers find that infectious forms of L. mexicana adapt their swimming style to follow a chemical to trail straight towards macrophages, immune cells that usually destroy pathogens. In fact, the parasites use macrophages to spread their infection – but with these new insights scientists may be able to intervene and stem the spread of diseases like leishmaniasis.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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