Dynamics of the malaria parasite invading the human erythrocyte

Updated: 3 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 31 May 2021

A two-year postdoctoral position in theory and simulation of biomaterials is available starting from July the 1st (or earlier) at the Physics of Complex Systems and Statistical Mechanics Laboratory, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels (http://complex.ulb.ac.be ) working in collaboration with Dr. B. M. Mognetti.

Job Summary: In the blood stage of the lifecycle of the malaria parasite, the merozoite (an egg-shaped colloid) reproduces asexually through subsequent infections of the human erythrocyte (red cell). In the early stages of the erythrocyte invasion, the parasite loosely binds the erythrocyte and reorients itself until placing its symmetry axis orthogonal to the red cell surface. The reorientation motion is orchestrated by ligand/receptor complexes forming reversible, interparticle linkages. Conditional on successful alignment, the parasite pulls itself inside the erythrocyte through molecular motors.

In collaboration with experimentalists, we will validate a mechanistic model to assess the crucial parameters affecting the reorientation dynamics, particularly the mechanical properties of the cell membrane and biochemical details of the membrane proteins mediating the interaction. Models and simulation methods will be validated using synthetic biology systems.

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