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Image of human blood cell infected by malaria wins top international prize

17 Jul 2009

Post-doctoral fellow, Dr Li Ang, from the Singapore-MIT Alliance and working at the Division of Bioengineering has won first prize of €5,000 at the International Scanning Probe Microscopy Image Contest 2009 (SPMage09). The winning image entitled "Human malaria (Plasmodium malariae) infected red blood cells" was chosen by an international jury from over 250 entries submitted from over 30 countries.

Currently working on his postdoctoral research with NUS Department of Mechanical Engineering Prof Lim Chwee Teck as his supervisor, Dr Li's research interests are in the applications of atomic force microscopy (AFM) in cellular and molecular biomechanics, surface morphology and mechanical characterization of human malaria-infected red blood cells. He also won the Excellent Paper Award, 2nd World Congress of Chinese Biomedial Engineers (WACBE) by the Chinese Society of Biomedical Engineering for his oral paper, "Study of normal and malaria-infected Erythrocytes using Atomic Force Microscopy" in 2004, a Calendar Honorable Mention Award from Veeco Instruments Inc in 2008 as well as a Best Oral Presentation Award during the International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technology 2009.

"In this work, Dr Li is involved in a multidisciplinary collaboration including engineers from NUS, malariaologists from Singapore Immunology Network (A*STAR) and clinicians from Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, Thailand. The awarded image is the first ever AFM scanning of Plasmodium malariae and is of significant scientific contribution as it offers insight into the structural makeup of a human red blood cell that is infected by the plasmodium malariae parasite from clinical patients. Such images enable us to better understand how the cell structures change dramatically after infection and how this may result in the pathophysiology of the disease," said Prof Lim.

Scanning Probe Microscopy is a recent development in the frontiers of research. Invented only about two decades ago, it has brought Nanoscience and Nanotechnology to the forefront. The international SPM image prize SPMage started in 2007 and aims to recognise the impact of scanning probe research in science and technology. The organisers of the competition also hope that the winning images featured in their gallery will have an impact beyond the realm of scientific research - as such images are aesthetically beautiful as well.