Fighting Malaria: Understanding the Biomechanical Properties of Red Blood Cells

Fighting Malaria

The Nanomechanics Laboratory investigates mechanical properties of engineered and biological materials at the nano to macro-scale using experimental, analytical, and computational techniques. The group's research projects include studies of nanostructured materials as well as exploring connections between biological cell mechanics and human disease states. This exhibition focuses on pioneering research studies on malaria.

"Nanotechnology and the study of human disease" lecture given by Professor Suresh to the MIT Alumni Association.

Non-profit organizations that are fighting malaria include The Gates Foundation; Partners in Health; and UNICEF.

Learn more about the Suresh Research Group

Articles from the MIT News Office:

Learn more about GEM4, the Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine:

Learn more about the Malaria Atlas Project and the worldwide incidence of malaria:

Learn about non-profit organizations that are fighting malaria:

The Gates Foundation:

Partners in Health:


Learn more about malaria research by the Suresh Research Group and to see materials featured in the exhibition:

YongKeun Park, Catherine Best, Thorsten Auth, Nir Gov, Samuel Safran, Gabriel Popescu, Subra Suresh and Michael Feld. "Metabolic remodeling of the human red blood cell membrane," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 107, no. 4, January 26, 2010.

This article was the cover story for this issue of PNAS. The beautiful artist rendering of a healthy red blood cell that is featured in this exhibition was rendered by Alex Jerez (Imaging Technology Group, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is provided courtesy of Gabriel Popescu and Subra Suresh. See:

Monica Diez-Silva, Ming Dao, Jongyoon Han, Chwee-Teck Lim and Subra Suresh, “Shape and Biomechanical Characteristics of Human Red Blood Cells in Health and Disease,” MRS Bulletin, volume 35, May 2010. See: and

YongKeun Park, Monica Diez-Silva, Gabriel Popescu, George Lykotrafitis, Wonshik Choi, Michael S. Feld, and Subra Suresh. "Refractive index maps and membrane dynamics of human red blood cells parasitized by Plasmodium falciparum," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 105, no. 37, September 16, 2008.

J. P. Mills, M. Diez-Silva, D. J. Quinn, M. Dao, M. J. Lang, K. S. W. Tan, C. T. Lim?, G. Milon, P. H. David, O. Mercereau-Puijalon, S. Bonnefoy, and S. Suresh. "Effect of plasmodial RESA protein on deformability of human red blood cells harboring Plasmodium falciparum," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 104, no. 22, May 29, 2007.

J. Li, G. Lykotrafitis, M. Dao and S. Suresh. "Cytoskeletal dynamics of human erythrocyte," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 104, no. 12, Mar 20, 2007.

M. Dao, J. Li and S. Suresh. Molecularly based analysis of deformation of spectrin network and human erythrocyte," Materials Science and Engineering C, vol. 26, no. 8, Sep 2006.

S. Suresh. "Mechanical response of human red blood cells in health and disease: Some structure-property-function relationships," Journal of Materials Research, vol. 21, no. 8, Aug 2006.

J. Li, M. Dao, C.-T. Lim and S. Suresh, "Spectrin-level modeling of the cytoskeleton and optical tweezers stretching of the erythrocyte," Biophysical Journal, vol. 88, no. 5, May 2005.

S. Suresh, J. Spatz, J.P. Mills, A. Micoulet, M. Dao, C.T. Lim, M. Beil and T. Seufferlein. "Connections between single cell biomechanics and human disease states: gastrointestinal cancer and malaria," Acta Biomaterialia, vol.1, no. 1, Jan 2005.

M. Dao, C.-T. Lim and S. Suresh. "Mechanics of the human red blood cell deformed by optical tweezers," Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, vol. 51, no. 11-12, Nov-Dec 2003.

This exhibit has closed.

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