The detection of malaria pigment crystals formed in the blood stage of the infection has been demonstrated to facilitate the high-sensitivity diagnosis of malaria by various physical methods. Recently, a magneto-optical diagnostic device capable of detecting the infection already at very low level of parasitemia (~10-4 %) was developed in our group. Besides diagnostic purposes, the detection of malaria pigment crystals also offers an efficient tool for the in vitro test of new antimalarial drug candidates. Furthermore, blocking the formation of malaria pigment is widely believed to be an efficient pathway for antimalarials.
The task of the PhD candidate is to monitor the formation of malaria pigment crystals in the blood stage of the infection using various types of physical detection techniques, including the magneto-optical malaria diagnostic device, scanning and/or transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and optical tweezers. The experiments will mainly be performed on synchronized Plasmodium falciparum cultures. The main goal of the projects is to follow the nucleation and the growth of malaria pigment crystals during the two days long asexual life cycle of vital parasites as well as for parasites treated by different antimalarial drug candidates. Effect of antimalarials on the crystal morphology will also be studied. These studies will help to establish stage-specific quantitative diagnostic schemes for methods targeting malaria pigment crystals and may help to explore different pathways to block the crystal formation.
The PhD research is planned as a bilateral project taking place in part time at Budapest University of Technology and Economics and at University of Augsburg, under the supervisions of Prof. Vértessy and Prof Kézsmárki, respectively.
Good experimental skills. Background in biophysics is a clear advantage.